A new study shows that massage therapy can help ease sore muscles as well as improve blood flow for active and non-active individuals. The positive effects can last for more than 72 hours, and those with poor circulation or limited ability to move may benefit the most from massage, according to researchers. For the study, researchers asked 36 healthy but inactive young adults to use a leg press machine until their legs became sore. Half of participants were given a Swedish leg massage after exercise, and all participants rated their muscle soreness on a scale from one to 10.
A third comparison group did not exercise but received a massage. A HealthDay news report notes that although both exercise groups were sore right after their workout, the persons who got the massage said they had no soreness 90 minutes later. However, those in the group that did not receive a massage said they were sore 24 hours after they exercised.
The research team also measured the participants’ brachial artery flow mediated dilation in their arms, which is a standard measure of general vascular health, that was taken 90 minutes as well as 1, 2, and 3 days after exercise. The people who received a post-exercise massage had improved blood flow at every testing interval and the benefits of the massage didn’t dispel until after 72 hours had passed.
Nina Cherie Franklin, PhD, first author of the study, says, “We believe that massage is really changing physiology in a positive way. This is not just blood flow speeds — this is actually a vascular response.” The research team also found that the control group who received massage only showed virtually identical levels of improvement in circulation as the exercise and massage group.
Franklin states, “Our study validates the value of massage in exercise and injury, which has been previously recognized but based on minimal data. It also suggests the value of massage outside of the context of exercise.”