Up until now, there wasn’t much scientific evidence or research done to show that massage eases inflammation in overworked muscles.  Professional athletes and weekend warriors seemed to swear by a massage after a particularly grueling workout or competition, but this was all just anecdotal evidence. Scientists now have clear proof that massage does, in fact, reduce inflammation caused by exercise.

Eleven men were asked to ride a stationary bike for an extended period of time. After riding the bike, one leg was given a ten minute massage and the other leg didn’t receive any treatment. Scientists took a biopsy of muscle cells  from both legs. It turns out that the massaged leg produced fewer cytokines, the protein that can cause swelling and soreness after exercise. Another encouraging factor was that the muscles produced new mitochondria, which produces energy in cells.  This will allow the muscle to develop the ability to work harder during the next workout.

Simon Melov, an associate professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and one of the researchers on a study looking at the anti-inflammatory properties of massage, says he wasn’t expecting to find anything.  His specialty is looking at diseases that cause damage to mitochondria.  He believes that massage therapy will become an adjunct treatment to these diseases where there are displays of muscle damage.

For now, athletes, both professional and amateur, can count on a massage to stave off muscle soreness.