Massage Doesn’t Just Make Muscles Feel Better, It Makes Them Heal Faster and Stronger

A new study confirms the link between mechanotherapy and immunotherapy in muscle regeneration in mice.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, aimed to evaluate whether massage and “mechanotherapies” (i.e., massage guns) actually improve healing after severe injury.

Researchers used a custom-designed robotic system to deliver consistent and tunable compressive forces to mice’s leg muscles and found that this mechanical loading (ML) “rapidly clears immune cells called neutrophils out of severely injured muscle tissue.” By the same process, inflammatory cytokines were removed from the muscles, resulting in an enhanced process of muscle fiber regeneration.

“Our work shows a very clear connection between mechanical stimulation and immune function. This has promise for regenerating a wide variety of tissues, including bone, tendon, hair, and skin, and can also be used in patients with diseases that prevent the use of drug-based interventions,” says first author Bo Ri Seo, PhD.

The team is continuing to investigate this line of research with multiple projects in the lab, and they plan to evaluate the mechanotherapeutic approach in larger animals, with the goal of being able to test its efficacy on humans.

Read the full study online at science.org/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.abe8868.

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