Love massage? You now have a scientific reason to go for it now.
Massage does improve vascular function in people who had not exercised, says research, suggesting that massage has benefits for people regardless of their level of physical activity.
Massage therapy improves general blood flow and alleviates muscle soreness after exercise, according to researchers.
"Improved circulation and relief of muscle soreness are common claims made for massage's benefits, but no studies have substantiated such claims till date," said Shane Phillips, an associate professor of physical therapy at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
"Our study validates the value of massage in exercise and injury, which has been previously recognised but based on minimal data," added Nina Cherie Franklin, a post-doctoral fellow at UIC.
The researchers had set out to see if massage would improve systemic circulation and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
Healthy sedentary adults were asked to exercise their legs to soreness using a standard leg press machine.
Half of the exercisers received leg massages, using conventional Swedish massage techniques, after the exercise.
As expected, both exercise groups experienced soreness immediately after exercise.
The exercise-and-massage group reported no continuing soreness 90 minutes after massage therapy.
The exercise-only group reported lasting soreness 24 hours after exercise.
"We believe that massage is really changing physiology in a positive way. This is not just blood flow speeds - this is actually a vascular response," Franklin added.
For people with limited mobility or those with impaired vascular function, further research may show that regular massage offers significant benefits, the authors said in a study reported in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.