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Circulation and Massage: How Massage helps Muscle Recovery

July 25, 2018

Circulation and Massage: How Massage helps Muscle Recovery

Improved circulation is a well known benefit of massage. There are two types of circulation happening within the body: blood flow and lymph flow. The lymphatic system serves both immune and circulatory roles,  reentering the blood flow to make up an important portion of blood volume (and therefore blood pressure). Lymph fluid travels throughout the body’s lymph nodes to be checked for invaders, making it one of the major defenses of the immune system. Muscles serve as pumps to the circulatory system, which is why people say to get up and move around to get the blood flowing! Movement circulates both blood and lymph fluid, and massage is thought to assist in this process too.

Exercise and Inflammation

During strenuous  exercise, muscles receive small amounts of damage. The body works to repair the damage by sending in extra fluids and nutrients, which can cause some inflammation. It is believed that the microdamage and inflammation are the cause of muscle soreness after exercise. Manipulation of muscles aids to flush out the increase of fluids that flow to muscles after that extra tough workout. Encouraging the fluids out of the muscles seems to reduce inflammation and pain. Both movement and massage are useful in reducing inflammation!

Massage Reducing Soreness

Many studies have been done with humans that show reduced soreness post workout when massage is received versus when it is not received. Muscles might be different shapes and sizes depending on species, but they are all fundamentally the same! Horses can enjoy the same benefits from massage, and in fact a study was done with Arabian racehorses in 2016 that demonstrated improved performance due to massage.

Massage Study with Racehorses

The study sorted 60 horses in the same training program into 5 groups: a control group, 2 classical music groups, and 2 massage groups.  The massage group that received massage daily for 6 months showed a significant improvement in race times over the groups that listened to music or received massage only the day before a race. Massage may have helped to decrease recovery time by improving circulation, and therefore improved the horses’ ability to train and prepare for racing.


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