Groundbreaking study shows massage can repair muscles

US researchers have found that massage can aid in the repair of muscles after injury.

The researchers, from Colorado State University and the University of Kentucky, showed that in rats, massage improves protein production in cells, causing muscle to grow faster.

In the paper published in November’s issue of The Journal of Physiology, the researchers also demonstrated that the muscle in an opposite, uninjured leg can be stimulated to grow faster by massaging the injured leg.

The findings were hailed as “ground-breaking” by authors Karyn Hamiltyon and Ben Miller, faculty members in CSU’s Department of Health and Exercise Science. “For instance, if you injured one leg and couldn’t massage it because of that injury, we now have evidence suggesting that massaging the other non-injured leg could lead to benefits in the injured leg,” said Hamilton. “That’s a novel finding with potentially very important implications.”

Rats were kept inactive for a period of time to decrease muscle mass, which is quickly lost in humans during periods of bed rest, such as hospital stay. The rats were then massaged with a device that applied highly controlled pressure to the muscle, every other day for a week.

The research team is beginning similar studies using human participants.

“We foresee that massage could be used in situations where other treatments, such as exercise, can’t be applied: in the intensive care unit and in patients who are under non-weight-bearing orders after orthopaedic surgeries,” said Esther Dupont-Versteegden, an investigator at the University of Kentucky’s College of Health Sciences.