Relief of muscle soreness and improved blood circulation are common claims made for the benefits of massage therapy, but a new study published online in advance of print in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is the first to substantiate these assertions, according to the study authors. The findings additionally indicated that massage improved vascular function in people who had not exercised, suggesting that massage has benefits for people regardless of their level of physical activity.
The study evaluated the response to traditional Swedish massage administered to healthy sedentary adults after exercise. Exercise-induced muscle injury has been shown to reduce blood flow, in addition to inducing soreness. The study noted improvements in both soreness index reporting and in brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD) among the exercise and massage recipients. Additionally, the same improvements in FMD were noted in a control group of massage recipients who did not exercise. This indicates the potential value of massage therapy for individuals with limited mobility and/or impaired vascular function, according to the study authors. Read a news story about the findings here.