Massage therapy has been touted for its numerous health and relaxation benefits but it’s never had solid science on its side—until now.
A study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago suggests massage therapy improves blood flow and alleviates muscle soreness after exercise.
After study participants exercised on a leg press machine, half of them received Swedish massages. The exercise-and-massage group reported no continuing soreness 90 minutes after massage therapy, while the exercise-only group reported lasting soreness 24 hours after exercise.
The scientists also discovered that massage post-exercise not only improves blood flow but also protects vascular function. Researchers measured the brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD) at different intervals post-exercise. The exercise-and-massage group’s FMD indicated improved blood flow at each interval, with improvement tapering off after 72 hours. The exercise-only group showed reduced blood flow after 90 minutes and 24 and 48 hours, with a return to normal levels at 72 hours.