Massage: Found to Reduce Inflammation, and Increase the Production of Mitochondria

Joseph Brownstein, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor

While some may enjoy a massage to soothe pain after an intense workout, new research gives some evidence that the effects of a massage go beyond providing a good feeling.

People who worked out for 70 minutes and then had a massage showed a marked increase in their muscle cells’ energy production, and a decrease in inflammation in the cells, a small study from Canada found.

For many years, people have gotten massages “without a huge amount of scientific underpinning,” said study researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, head of the division of neuromuscular and neurometabolic disease at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“Our work raises the very interesting possibility that endurance exercise may be enhanced, or at least the benefits may be enhanced, for those who have a massage following their exercise,” Tarnopolsky said.The study is published today (Feb. 1) in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Massaging the muscles

In the study, 11 young men exercised to exhaustion, which took about 70 minutes, and then after a brief rest, had one leg massaged while the other was not.

Researchers analyzed tissue samples taken from the men’s leg muscles shortly after the massage, and again after two and a half hours of rest, and compared them with samples they had taken from the participants after a previous, briefer workout.

They found two significant changes in the massaged muscles: a reduction in inflammation, and an increase in the production of mitochondria, which serve as an energy source in the body’s cells.

“The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, and increases of mitochondria are at the heart of the benefits of endurance exercise,” Tarnopolsky said.

At the same time, the researchers did not find any evidence of one often-touted benefit of massage. The massage had no effect on reducing lactic acid, which builds up in muscles during exercise.

“I think that this contributes to the growing body of thoughtful scientific work suggesting that massage itself, one, does have clear benefits and, two, there are ways that we can begin to discern the biology of why massage has those benefits,” said Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

“It’s remarkable to me they’re getting such profound effects with only 10 minutes of massage intervention,” said Rapaport, who has studied the effects of massage for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Massages that heal?

Rapaport said future research should give a better idea of where massage may be a “biologically active” treatment, and could help with healing and athletic training.

The new study suggests “that by getting a massage, the athletes are getting something that is decreasing inflammation and promoting a more positive feeling,” he said.

One future research direction will be to examine the long-term effect of massage after a workout.

While the short-term effects seem positive, Tarnopolsky said, that there are some reasons to think there may be adverse effects from massage down the line. In part, that’s because the role of the body’s natural inflammation process in healing is not fully understood.

“If we suppress inflammation, could we slow down the healing process?” Tarnopolsky said, explaining that some recent research has raised these concerns.

“Although [massages] make you feel better, by reducing inflammation, is that actually reducing the body’s ability to repair?

“Future research, he said, should answer those questions.”That’s really the next step,” Tarnopolsky said.”If we’re slowing down inflammation, might a person be able to recover faster from a marathon or very heavy training session? Would it allow a top-sport athlete to put in a higher volume of training to get ready for a competition?” he said.

Pass it on: New research shows massage has biological effects on the body, and it may have a long-term impact after exercise.

Triathlon Training: Benefits Of Massage

Written by: Cliff English

Are you an athlete who cringes at the thought of making massages a part of your regular training habits? Coach Cliff English explains why seeking massages before your muscles seize should be an integral part of your training plan.

I definitely cannot say massage therapy is a foreign recovery modality concept to most triathletes, and even the most stalwart holdouts can be seen on occasion receiving a post-race massage or two. It seems massage is still viewed as a luxury and an indulgence and is used very infrequently. Most will still wait until every muscle has seized up and muscles and tendons are about as tight as the weave of carbon on your carbon-fiber bike.

Sure, if you wait until that point, you will garner some brief relief from your ailments. However, for an athlete at any level, the real benefits arise from frequent massage therapy and from working with a massage therapist that understands sports massage and your body. I believe that if you are serious about your sport and performance, it is essential to integrate massage therapy into your training program. To help convince those that are still unsure, I have enlisted the help of certified massage therapist Briana Averill to strengthen my points. Averill is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist in Tucson, Ariz. She works with runners, cyclists, triathletes and swimmers ranging from the weekend warrior to Olympic medalists.

Massage therapy has numerous benefits for athletes. Massage can speed up recovery after a large day of training, a race or a big block of training. According to Averill, “Massage increases blood flow to the muscles to help speed healing by flushing out the metabolic waste.” Averill says it can also give the athlete a chance to reconnect his mind and body and decompress. In a similar manner, “active recovery” can be utilized in the weeks that you do not have a massage scheduled, and it is also a very effective means of flushing metabolic waste.This would usually entail a light 30-minute swim or a 60-minute bike ride at a lower-end aerobic effort (zone 1).

Averill says that regular massage can help manage and prevent injury by bringing awareness to areas of the body that are not functioning or responding as efficiently as possible. “The therapist, if he understands the nature of the various injuries or dysfunctions can treat the athlete accordingly if it is within his scope of practice to do so,” she says.

The ideal frequency for massage therapy is twice a week for an elite athlete, once a week minimum. For a recreational athlete, it would be once a week to once a month based on need.

In coaching, one of the key components to success is a strong athlete/coach relationship built upon trust and effective communication. Similarly, it is key to establish a relationship with your massage therapist so he not only gets to know your body but also is able to work out with you what type and depth the massage should be for what you need in that microcycle (week) or training cycle. Massage should be periodized, and when you integrate it into your yearly plan, it will really reap huge benefits.

“Every person is different and what is highly effective for one person may not be for another,” says Averill. “But in general, for big load weeks, getting a good, deep flush once or twice a month is great, but not so deep that fatigue is increased in the muscles.” Averill cautions that your therapist should be in tune with your body and should have the experience to know how much is beneficial. Recovery weeks are a good time for more specific work. Then, in a competition week, it is all about what works for you as an individual just as with a taper.

“Some of my clients have responded well with deep, specific work early in the week before a race,” says Averill, “while others just prefer a nice, easy flush mid-week to a few days before.”

Ideally, I like to have my athletes get a massage the day before either a day off or the day before a light “active recovery” day. This is a good example of how to effectively use massage as a key component in a microcycle. A deep massage the day before a key track session or bike interval session will leave the athlete feeling sluggish for that session, and for most it would end up being a tough day of training.

When possible, schedule your pre-race massage early in the race week and then definitely get a post-race massage either right after the race (highly recommended) or the day after with your regular therapist. Throw in an ice bath lasting three to five minutes somewhere shortly after the race, and you will get the type of recovery that most pros use. This combo will have you recovered and ready to start another block of training in no time!

For daily preventive maintenance, it is also recommended to do a little self-massage with a foam roller, a TP massage ball, quad ball, roller stick or pretty much any self-massage torture apparatus you can get you hands on.

The rollers are effective to roll out the quads, IT bands and calves while the smaller balls are perfect for getting into glutes, adductors and soleus muscles. Remember that while a healthy dose of pain is always part of a triathlete’s daily regimen, too much may not always be a good thing.

Staying on top of your recovery with frequent massage is a great way to keep your body fine-tuned and running like the world-class machine that it is!

Coach Cliff English has over 15 years of experience coaching athletes ranging from age-groupers to Olympians, first-timers to Ironman champions.

Triathlon Training: Benefits Of Massage

*Remember, you do not have to be an athlete to benefit from regular massage therapy! Everyone can benefit from making regular massage therapy a part of their health and wellness routine!!

Stress and the Reproductive System

The reproductive system makes life possible. An individual does not need the system to survive, but the human race does. Without the reproductive system, the human cycle would end. High levels of stress that go untreated can be particularly taxing on the reproductive system.

An overload of stress prevents the release of the ‘master’ hormone that signals a cascade of hormones that direct reproduction and sexual behavior. It also inhibits the testes and ovaries directly, hindering production of the male and female sex hormones testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.

In men, long-term stress can reduce the number of sperm produced or cause impotence. In women, stress can cause absent or irregular menstrual cycles, and reduce sexual desire.

So what do you say? Let’s keep the human race alive, book a massage session and help relieve the stress in your life.

Stress and the Endocrine System

endocrine_systemThe endo…what? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not what you do when you go over your handlebars. In simplest terms, it is a system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body. The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its chemicals using ducts. The endocrine system influences almost every cell, organ, and function in our bodies. It is instrumental in regulating mood, tissue function, metabolism, and reproductive processes to name a few.

So how is this system involved with stress? When the body is stressed, the glands of our endocrine system start to produce stress hormones. These hormones are released into the body and in response, the liver produces glucose, raising our blood sugar and keeping us in our ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system response when we don’t need to be there. Basically, it inhibits our ability to relax and recover from stress.

The ability to recover from stress and to remove ourselves from stress is very important in overall healthy function of the body.  Our society lends to a life of sympathetic nervous system living and not parasympathetic healing.  As a whole, we need more time in the parasympathetic nervous system response and ‘down time’ is the way to get there.  I’m not talking about down time in front of the television while folding laundry.  I’m referring to meditation, massage, relaxation in nature, sleep – I’m referring to time spent nurturing your soul and rejuvenating your systems.  Time away from a hectic schedule: working, training/exercise (yes, exercise is a form of stress & in moderation can help relieve stress – find balance), giving & caring for others (again, has it’s benefits, but it may take it’s toll if you do not make time to care for yourself) – make time for your healing and recovery.

The Endocrine System

  • Helps the body to restore and heal itself
  • Develops of a restful sleep pattern
  • Promotes appropriate levels of hormones (bringing the immune system back in balance)

Benefits of massage on the Endocrine System

  • increases general circulation in endocrine system and thus helps in transport of hormones
  • indirectly aids immune system, as some hormones produce lymphocytes to aid in immunization
  • normalizes endocrine activity through balancing effect on ANS (autonomic nervous system)
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Stress and the Immune System

The immune system is very complex and functions to seek and destroy bodily invasions. It is responsible for identifying everything that is foreign to our systems and protect us from infection. This is a system I recommend taking care of; you see, high levels of stress that go untreated will suppress your immune system, preventing it from working at 100% of its ability.

The effects of stress on the immune system are many and include, but are not limited to: weakened defenses, lower resistance to infections and viral illnesses, as well as, increased susceptibility to allergies and malignant cell changes that encourage the growth and spread of cancer.

Unfortunately, we have come to live in a highly toxic environment, therefore it is as important as ever to support healthy function of your immune system. I recommend regular massage to reduce stress and strengthen your immunity, and in the short term, try a good laugh! Stress constricts blood vessels, weakening our immune system and ability to fight off disease. Studies have shown that laughter (& massage therapy) lowers levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and in effect, reverses the constriction of blood vessels, helping to support better immune function.

Massage Therapy & The Lymphatic System

  • Cleanses the body of wastes and toxic debris in the body
  • Increases the circulation of lymph
  • Stimulates the immune system (strengthens resistance to disease)
  • Reduces edema of the extremities (arms and legs)
  • Removal of lactic acid from fatigued and sore muscles (promotes quick recovery)
  • Increases kidney action to remove wastes of protein metabolism
  • Increases retention of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur to aid in bone repair
  • Speeds recovery from illness