Massage Therapy for Inflammation After Exercise

Skeletal muscle injuries are among the most common and frequently disabling injuries sustained by athletes and “weekend warriors” alike. Massage therapy is commonly used for physical rehabilitation of skeletal muscles to manage pain and promote injury recovery. Current research also suggests an additional benefit to massage after injury–a reduction in inflammation and swelling.

A major study conducted by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario indicates that massage therapy reduces inflammation of skeletal muscle acutely damaged through exercise. The study provides evidence for the benefits of massage therapy for those with musculoskeletal injuries and potentially for those with inflammatory disease, according to the lead author of the research.

The study found evidence at the cellular level that massage therapy may affect inflammation in a way similar to anti-inflammatory medications.

For the medical and science minded, the researchers “found that massage activated the mechanotransduction signaling pathways focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and extracellular signal–regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2), potentiated mitochondrial biogenesis signaling [nuclear peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α)], and mitigated the rise in nuclear factor κB (NFκB) (p65) nuclear accumulation caused by exercise-induced muscle trauma.”

In other words, inflammation decreased as a result of massage.

A qualified massage therapist will talk with you specifically about your injury and ask about any care and treatment from medical professionals.  In many cases, massage therapy can be an excellent complement to those efforts and make a big difference in how you feel and how quickly you recover.

J. D. Crane, D. I. Ogborn, C. Cupido, S. Melov, A. Hubbard, J. M. Bourgeois, M. A. Tarnopolsky, Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 119ra13 (2012).