How Does Massage Work?

With every calculated stroke of a skilled masseur’s hand, aching muscles are soothed and you feel extremely relaxed. Have you ever wondered, though, how massage works in the first place?

The answer lies deep within your body. A study published in the 2011 Journal of Alternative of Complementary Medicine indicated that a round of deep-tissue Swedish massage works by reducing levels of the hormone arginine vasopressin by 18 percent. This hormone is responsible for restricting blood vessels and raising blood pressure. Before you think that’s bad, remember that reducing the levels of the hormone also facilitates the “relaxation response” such that circulation and nutrient delivery through the bloodstream (oxygen, specifically) are significantly improved.

A different study involved blood and muscle tests before and after an exhausting workout. One group received a massage after the workout, the other did not. Results showed the group that received massages recovered much faster than their counterparts due to an increase in levels of a gene that produces mitochondria (components that facilitate cell growth and energy production). They found out that the manipulation of muscle tissue associated with massage therapy also “turned off” the genes that cause inflammation, while also expelling harmful lactic acid from the muscles.

So, there you have it. As it turns out, massage actually speeds up the body’s natural recovery processes, and works not because of “magic” but because of science.


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