After a heavy workout, most know a massage can feel extremely soothing, but according to a recent study there is now scientific confirmation that a massage can reduce inflammation and promote the growth of new mitochondria in skeletal muscle.

Researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, along with McMaster University in Ontario, studied the genetic analysis of muscle biopsies taken from the quadriceps of eleven young men, after they exercised until exhaustion on a stationary bicycle.

Afterward, one of their legs was randomly selected to be massaged. Both legs received biopsies before the workout began, and immediately after ten minutes of massage treatment, and then again after a two and a half hour period of rest and recovery.

“Our research showed that massage dampened the expression of inflammatory cytokines in the muscle cells and promoted biogenesis of mitochondria, which are the energy-producing units in the cells,” said Dr. Simon Melov, one of the study authors. “There’s general agreement that massage feels good, now we have a scientific basis for the experience.”

Co-author Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky feels this research can lend further validity to massages, as it’s now developed into a common therapeutic practice. “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,” he said.

“This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medial practice”.

The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.