By ANDREA PETERSEN
Scientists are studying massage in healthy people.
In a small study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine last month, a 10-minute massage promoted muscle recovery after exercise. In the study, 11 young men exercised to exhaustion and then received a massage in one leg. Muscle biopsies were taken in both quad muscles before exercise, after the massage and 2½ hours later.
The short massage boosted the production of mitochondria, the energy factory of the cell, among other effects. “We’ve shown this is something that has a biological effect,” says Mark Tarnopolsky, a co-author of the study and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario.
A 2010 study with 53 participants comparing the effects of one 45-minute massage to light touch found that people who got a massage had a large decrease in arginine-vasopressin, a hormone that normally increases with stress and aggressive behavior, and slightly lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their blood after the session. There was also a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions.
Mark Hyman Rapaport, the lead author of the study and the chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says he began studying massage because, “My wife liked massages and I wasn’t quite sure why. I thought of it as an extravagance, a luxury for only people who are very rich and who pamper themselves.” Now, Dr. Rapaport says he gets a massage at least once a month. His group is now studying massage as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.
Most of us know that massage is a good thing. It’s nice to have some science to back up just how deep the benefits go. When was the last time you received a massage — or even gave one to yourself (see our instructional video here)?