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How Does a Massage Really Work?

Those who have gone through the experience of receiving a massage know of the many benefits it brings. Of course not 2 massages are the same, but we can all agree that it causes your body to feel good. So good in fact that scientists got curious and asked, “what really goes on, on the cellular level, when we get a massage?”

Latest Research on How Massage Works

Prior to some recent research, there was a lot of ambiguity around how massage really affects our bodies. For example, the commonly held belief was that the reason why massage is so effective in helping the body recover from intense exercise was because the pressure would cause the lactic acid to be eliminated from tired muscles. However, the latest research is showing that that massage therapy helps the body heal.

Scientists tested on eleven volunteers and took blood and tissue samples before and after a grueling cycling session. Ten minutes after the exercise the test group received a massage only on one leg then samples were taken from their quadriceps muscles (10 minutes after the massage and then 3 hours after the workout.)

According to scientists were shocked to find that the massaged legs had 30% more PGC-lalpha, a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria (the engines of the cell). In addition, these cells had three times less NFkB, which turns on genes associated with inflammation.


After exercise, massage therapy suppresses inflammation and promotes faster healing by increasing the production of mitochondria. Thomas Best, a sports medicine physician who has studied massage’s effects on animals said, “This is probably the best study I’ve seen that looks at the biological basis for massage therapy.”

So if you’re looking to decrease inflammation and repair your body on the cellular level, visit a massage therapist!

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