MASSAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Part of ARTICLE NEW YORK TIMES on Feb 6, 2012

Dr. Tarnopolsky suggests that, in the long run, a professional massage may even be a better bargain than a pill. If someone says “This is free and it might make you feel better, but it may slow down your recovery, do you still want it?” he asked. “Or would you rather spend the 70 bucks for a post-exercise massage that also might enhance your recovery?”

Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction– inflammation –as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells.

In a recent study it was found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.

Dr. Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said that massage works quite differently from Nsaids and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce inflammation and pain but may actually retard healing. Many people, for instance, pop an aspirin or Aleve at the first sign of muscle soreness. “There’s some theoretical concern that there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs,” he said. “With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too–massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.”