Embodiment Works blog

For all you lovers of massage out there, looking to legitimise what is oft perceived as a mere indulgence, I’ve unearthed some scientific evidence as to the true benefits of this fabulous therapy.

Massage therapy can help the body in many ways. I’m all for holistic integration of mind, body and spirit but, unsubstantiated claims about improving circulation, muscle tone and general health are simply supposition. I just lie there thinking, heck! This just feels sooooo good, it must be doing me good. I dug around a little for something to assuage my guilt and prop up my extravagance.

I shall follow with a compendious account of one particular study. Dr Mark Tarnopolsky a professor, neurologist & neurometabolic researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton Canada, noted the benefits of massage therapy during his rehabilitation after an accident. He believed, ‘there has to be a physiological basis for this’ this being the extremely effective easing of his pain and his accelerated recovery. Could it be that massage lessens and suppresses the inflammation that follows exercise or minor injury, while promoting faster healing? Yes!

Put very simply; kneading and massage eases sore muscles by, turning off genes associated with inflammation and turning on genes that promote rapid muscle healing. Dr Tarnopolsky gathered a group of eleven volunteers (or human pin-cushions) to the laboratory. On their first visit to the lab, one thigh muscle of each subject was biopsied at rest, then all subjects were exercised to the point of exhaustion for over one hour. Visualise copious amounts of peddling and rivers of sweat. After the torture/exertion, one thigh of each participant was massaged for ten minutes, leaving the other thigh to recover alone and untouched, aawh. Straight after the (meagre) massage each thigh was biopsied again and then once more after two and a half hours. The third biopsy tracked the process of muscle injury and repair. it was discovered that pain related cytokines can be reduced and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis helps the muscle to adapt to higher demands of activity, this actually enhances cell recovery.

My weary eyes waded through science-speak, equations and statistics, Yes, the study was small but nonetheless worthy and now hopefully you get the gist and I feel validated in my massage machinations. Above we have actual scientific proof of the beneficial effects of massage, it lessens inflammation whilst promoting speedier healing. Guilt free, gloriously indulgent and definitely good for your health, Go Get Some! Mmmm Massage.

Anwar Ravjani is a multi-disciplinary somatic bodywork therapist based in Fitzrovia, London


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By Anwar Ravjani