Massages can help the body repair itself and reduce pain, study finds

A visit to luxury spas in London is a great way to unwind and enjoy a spot of pampering at any time, but could be an especially good idea if you've been over doing it at the gym or on the sports field lately.

According to a new study, massages can actually help the body heal itself following an injury, as well as ease pain and inflammation.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada studied the effects of massage on 11 young male volunteers who had suffered muscle damage as the result of over-exercising.

A proportion of the men were given a ten-minute massage, while the remainder received no such treatment.

Two-and-a-half hours after the massage, biopsies of the damaged muscles were taken from both groups of men.

Publishing their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers found that those who had undergone the massage therapy had higher levels of certain chemicals that govern how our bodies deal with injuries on a genetic level.

They did this by analysing the volunteers' level of mRNA – a chemical which tells the body to increase or decrease the rate of production of certain proteins.

It was found that the bodies of those who had been massaged had been instructed by mRNA to produce more of a protein called PGC-1 alpha and less of one called NFkB.

Increased levels of PGC-1 alpha leads to the creation of more mitochondria, which in turn generates energy for cell growth and helps the body repair damage at a quicker rate.

Lower levels of NFkB, on the other hand, reduces inflammation and eases pain.

"The potential benefits of massage could be useful to a broad spectrum of individuals, including those suffering from musculoskeletal injuries and patients with chronic inflammatory disease," lead researcher Dr Mark Tarnopolsky concluded.

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