The scoop: This age-old practice involves a massage therapist applying pressure to soft tissue, generally with their hands, but occasionally with their elbows or feet. Sure, it feels good, but this therapy is used to alleviate pain, increase relaxation, and reduce stress.
“Massage loosens up tight muscles, flushes out toxins, and can reduce inflammation, leading to quicker healing times,” says Meghan Arbogast, a massage therapist in Corvallis, Ore.
The science: Last year, one small study examined the effect of post-exercise massage. It found that after a bout of strenuous activity, massage reduced the production of cytokines, compounds integral to inflammation, in fatigued muscles. It also helped cellular mitochondria, which use glucose to help repair cells. While this study demonstrated that massage both reduces pain and expedites the healing process, the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) reports that scientific evidence on how massage therapy affects the body is limited.
Best for treating: Soft-tissue injuries, such as strained hamstrings, Achilles tendinitis or calf cramps.
Look for: A licensed or certified therapist (some may be certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork); sport-specific experience; deep-tissue and trigger-point techniques.
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