After the workout, each man received a 10-minute Swedish-style massage on only one leg; the other leg served as the control. They also had biopsies taken from their leg muscles before and after exercise, immediately after massage and then again two and a half hours later.
Researchers found that massage set off a series of molecular events in muscles that helped reverse discomfort related to exercise. Massage dampened the activity of proteins known as inflammatory cytokines, which cause inflammation and pain. It also increased levels of proteins that signal the muscles to produce more mitochondria, the cell structures that produce energy and help muscles recover from activity.