Massage Your Way to a Speedy Recovery

March 14, 2016

You just finished a super intense workout, and you’re already thinking about how you will be sore for the next few days. Did you know that with a quick massage, you can not only reduce soreness, but speed up recovery?

Massage also serves as an effective supplement to standard injury rehabilitation procedures—no wonder it is a go-to therapy for so many athletes. Massaging sore muscles relaxes them and encourages circulation, aiding the body in pumping more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs. This allows injured areas to become more flexible and to heal faster. By stretching tight tissues, massage therapy breaks down adhesions, which in turn reduces swelling in joints.

Types of Massage Used for Recovery

The most common types of massage used as sore muscle remedies are:

  • Swedish Massage: This style uses light to medium pressure, combining long strokes, kneading, and friction techniques on muscles and various movements of joints. Swedish massage can be both relaxing and energizing.
  • Deep Tissue Massage: Similar to Swedish massage, deep tissue massage therapy applies deeper pressure that is beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension. This method focuses on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons, and fascia (the protective layer surrounding muscles, bones, and joints).

We know that these forms of massage help with sore muscle and injury relief, but how?


Massage Recovery: It’s In the Proof

While testing the benefits of massage is a challenge, scientists have performed experiments to help us understand exactly how massage does what it does.

In 2008, researchers at Ohio State University tested the theory that massage therapy speeds up recovery after a sports injury. The study used rabbits as subjects and a mechanical device to mimic movements associated with a specific kind of exercise, and a second device to follow the exercise with a simulated consistent massaging motion (a Swedish massage simulation) on the affected muscles.

Researchers then compared these animals to other animals that performed the exercise movements but did not receive simulated massage. All animals were sedated during the experiments. They found that the muscles in animals receiving simulated massage had improved function, less swelling, and fewer signs of inflammation than did muscles in the animals that received no massage treatment after exercise.

Then, in 2012, scientists found 11 young male volunteers to participate in a study in which biopsies were compared to show that massage therapy’s interaction with muscle proteins reduces inflammation and helps cells recover. Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and lead author of a study about the research, performed muscle biopsies in both legs of the healthy young male subjects and after they’d undergone strenuous exercise, and a third time after massaging just one leg in each individual.

After comparing tissues from each subject’s massaged leg with tissues from his unmassaged leg, Tarnopolsky, and his team found that massage therapy reduced exercise-related inflammation and helped cells recover more quickly.

How Does Massage Help Muscles Heal?

In Tarnopolsky’s study, brief massage affected two specific genes in the subjects’ muscle cells. The first gene decreases inflammation caused by exercise, similar to the effects of pain relief medications. The second gene increases production of mitochondria in muscles. The mitochondria, known as the powerhouses of the cells, use oxygen and broken-down food nutrients to generate necessary energy. As muscle cells adapt to endurance exercise, mitochondria are increased. The study found that massage therapy helped this process.

Other studies have shown treatments for sore muscles (i.e., ice baths and anti-inflammatory medications) can reduce inflammation, but tend to block muscle repair and growth.

Massage therapy is a remedy that will help with both sore muscles and blood circulation. Massage will loosen any tight muscles, as well as help realign your spine. Massage not only makes you feel better but also speeds up the recovery of sore muscles and sports injuries. With proof like this, even the toughest of athletes don’t have to feel so bad about needing a rub-down after a major sporting event!

If, however, you do prefer a massage in the privacy of your own home, a massage chair may be your best option. Quality, high-end massage chairs that offer Shiatsu and deep tissue techniques are available to ease sore muscles after workouts. Decompress and relieve your spine with a massage chair that will stretch your neck, shoulders, and waist to relieve tension and loosen muscles. With your own massage chair, you can enjoy both your exercise and your massages on your own time in the privacy of your own home. What could be better than that?

Please Note: Please be sure to always consult your physician prior to performing intensive exercise or using a massage chair, especially if you suffer from a back injury or a preexisting condition.


About the author: Jenny Morris is a freelance writer who frequently contributes content to She has written engaging and optimized web content for a variety of industries, including technology, home goods, social media, and travel. A Massachusetts native, Jenny graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor of arts in communication. In addition to writing, she keeps busy with a range of social media and creative projects. In her free time, Jenny loves reading and traveling.

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