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10 Minutes of Massage Reduces Muscle Inflammation

Posted: February 6, 2012

Researchers at McMaster University have discovered a brief 10-minute massage helps reduce inflammation in muscle.

As a nondrug therapy, massage holds the potential to help not just bone-weary athletes but those with inflammation-related chronic conditions, such as arthritis or muscular dystrophy, says Justin Crane, a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster.

While massage is well accepted as a therapy for relieving muscle tension and pain, the researchers delved deeper to find it also triggers biochemical sensors that can send inflammation-reducing signals to muscle cells. In addition, massage signals muscle to build more mitochondria, the power centers of cells which play an important role in healing.

"The main thing, and what is novel about our study is that no one has ever looked inside the muscle to see what is happening with massage, no one looked at the biochemical effects or what might be going on in the muscle itself," said Crane. "We have shown the muscle senses that it is being stretched and this appears to reduce the cells' inflammatory response. As a consequence, massage may be beneficial for recovery from injury."

Crane said the McMaster researchers are the first to take a manual therapy, like massage, and test the effect using a muscle biopsy to show massage reduces inflammation, an underlying factor in many chronic diseases. The research appears in the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.