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Firstly, I have to admit that I have had sports massages in the past and found them very relaxing - apart from when they dig their elbows deep into those pressure points and ask "That's not too painful is it" knowing full well that you're not even able to speak at the time - but the science behind it has always been a bit vague on how it actually is doing you any good. One theory, held by many, is that it helps clear lactic acid from tired muscles, but it's one theory that I have never subscribed to.
Now a researcher at McMasters University in the US have performed some literally penetrating investigations into the possible benefits of massage on post exercise muscles: and the results are enlightening.
Justin Crane, a Doctoral student managed to convince 10 young men to take part in his research which got them to exercise to the point of exhaustion, resting and then having massage oil applied to both legs; but only having one leg massaged for a period of 10 minutes. Then the penetrating part of the investigation started - muscle biopsies were performed on both legs and then repeated 2 hours later!
The findings were relatively startling, as they found that just a modest 10 minutes of massage resulted in a marked decrease in inflammatory markers in the massaged leg and increased signals to build more mitochondria, the power centres of cells.
Whilst this is good for athletes and weekend warriors, it may also be good for those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and those with mitochondrial disorders such as muscular dystrophy.
And by the way, the research also showed that massage did not remove lactic acid from tired muscles!