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HealthWatch: Research Reveals Healing Benefits Of Massage

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - Having a massage after exercise can significantly reduce muscle soreness, and a new study published Thursday in the journal "Science Transitional Medicine" offers a scientific explanation.

The explanation lies in the reason muscles get sore during exercise. A hard workout actually causes damage to the muscles, noted Simon Melov, a biochemistry professor affiliated with the Novato-based Buck Institute for Research on Aging and co-author of the study. Tiny micro-tears are created in the muscle tissue.

Melov said the process of recovering from those tears is what helps us improve our performance over time.

Although massage doesn't prevent the muscle tears, it does curb the inflammation that comes with those tears. Specifically, the study found, massage reduces the expression of inflammatory cytokines in the muscle cells and promotes the growth of mitochondria, the energy-producing units in cells.

In the study, a group of healthy men exercised on stationary bikes to the point of exhaustion. Researchers did biopsies of the men's quadriceps muscles and then randomly picked one leg on each man to receive massage. Biopsies conducted after the massage found less inflammation.

Interestingly, the researchers said, massage may involve the same pain-relieving mechanism found in conventional anti-inflammatory drugs.

These findings didn't surprise Shana Ominsky, a Bay Area resident who is training for a marathon and gets massage twice a week to help after workouts.

"I love massage," Ominsky said. "I find that the recovery for my body, legs especially, is just so much quicker. I can get right back on my feet again to go for another hard workout."

Kristin Tanner, a licensed massage therapist at the Sanctuary Spa at the Bay Club San Francisco, hears comments like that all the time.

"(Massage) helps to clear out the toxins, and it keeps lactic acid from building. It helps to smooth the fascia, and that's very beneficial for people who work out regularly," said Tanner.

Put a little less scientifically - Massage feels good!

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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