The New York Times ran a great article on the biology of massage a couple of weeks ago. Check it out here. From the article:
“They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.”
In other words, massage has the same anti-inflammatory effect that drugs like Advil provide, but without the side effect of slowing down the healing process. If a drug existed with this ability it would be marketed as a miracle cure and bring billions of dollars to a pharmaceutical company. So next time you feel an ache in your back, pause before reaching for the medicine cabinet and consider calling a massage therapist instead.