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06-02-2012 | Physical rehabilitation | Article

Massage therapy reduces inflammation following strenuous exercise


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MedWire News: Massage therapy may reduce pain by the same mechanism as conventional drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), suggest study findings.

The researchers found that massage reduced inflammation and promoted mitochondrial biogenesis in individuals with exercise-induced muscle damage.

"The potential benefits of massage could be useful to a broad spectrum of individuals including the elderly, those suffering from musculoskeletal injuries, and patients with chronic inflammatory disease," commented lead author of the study Mark Tarnopolsky, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in a press statement.

"This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medical practice," he said.

For the study, Tarnopolsky and team investigated the influence of massage on the muscles of 11 men who had undergone an exhaustive aerobic exercise session. After a 10-minute recovery period, a single leg was randomized to receive massage treatment for 10 minutes.

The massage treatment was composed of three types of soft tissue manipulations: 4 minutes of effleurage (2 minutes at the start and finish of the session), 3 minutes of petrissage, and 3 minutes of muscle stripping. Treatment was focused on the knee extensor muscles.

The researchers obtained muscle biopsies from the participants at rest, immediately after administration of massage, and after a 2.5-hour recovery period. Whole-genome microarrays were used to screen for gene expression induced by massage.

As reported in Science Translational Medicine, massage activated the mechanotransduction signaling pathways via focal adhesion kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2. "These proteins were phosphorylated immediately after massage treatment, and their activation preceded several signaling events that were activated later," write Tarnopolsky et al.

Massage also increased mitochondrial biogenesis signaling and reduced the rise in nuclear factor κB p65 accumulation caused by exercise-induced muscle trauma, they say.

In addition, although massage had no effect on muscle metabolites, such as glycogen and lactate, it did attenuate the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6, and reduced phosphorylation of heat shock protein 27. This suggests massage mitigates cellular stress resulting from myofiber injury, write the authors.

"Future studies should address additional posttranslational signaling pathways influenced by manual therapies (such as whole-proteome phosphorylation and acetylation), as well as the effect of chronic massage on skeletal muscle adaptations to exercise," they conclude.

By Nikki Withers

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