Getting a therapeutic massage has many more benefits than just relaxation and stress reduction, though that alone makes it worth the price of admission.
Science research examining the direct physiological effects of body kneading processes has uncovered evidence that it reduces pain by turning off genes associated with bodily inflammation, while turning on genes involve with triggering the healing of muscles.
These findings extend beyond person to person massage to the pain reduction signals sent from the brain during self-massage, such as gripping an area of the body that is injured and radiating acute pain.
In a Journal of Pain Research review of 24 randomized controlled trials of “muscle-biased therapies,” as massage and other body manipulation techniques are referred to in the clinical literature, it was found that study findings “demonstrated a favorable and consistent ability to modulate pain sensitivity.”
A 2012 study examining how and why massage is effective uncovered those connections that indicated the aforementioned gene expression link. Using 11 male volunteers who did an intense cycling session that left their muscles painful and sore, massage therapists rubbed their legs as tissue samples from their leg muscles were taken and analyzed. The analysis revealed how the turning on and off of certain genes, activated by massage, controlled inflammation and cell repair.
More research published in the science journal Current Biology determined that a similar acute pain relief pattern occurred when self-administered rubbing or massage occurred. This is a clue as to why we humans reflexively touch and clutch any area of our bodies where we feel a painful sensation.
All of these findings together make a case for using therapeutic massage to help treat the pain and inflammation of injuries, as well as chronic medical conditions such as fibromyalgia.
“Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage.” Crane JD. Et al. Science Translational Medicine. February 2012.
“Effect of a single session of muscle-biased therapy on pain sensitivity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Gay CW. Et al. Journal of Pain Research. 2013.
“Cooling the thermal grill illusion through self-touch.” Kammers MP. Et al. Current Biology, September 2010.