Everyone’s had a day where they’ve been sore from work or exercise from the previous day…
Whether it was aching biceps and triceps from reps at the gym, or sore legs from squatting or lifting things at your job all day long, everyone gets sore from time to time.
For a lot of people. It’s merely a source of pain, but many find it to be relieving or even downright pleasurable to massage their sore muscles and hit the sorest, most tense spots over and over again.
What is it about the process that makes this feel good for people?
Why, exactly, does massaging sore muscles feel good?
The Relief of Tension
When your muscles are sore, micro-tears in the muscle fibers are what is causing the pain. Your muscle fibers have litteraly been ripped in pieces due to the intensity of your activity, and the process of recovery is what makes your stronger.
However, working your muscles during recovery is often what people complain about most when they’re referring to muscle pain.
When you get a massage, the main focus of the treatment is the release of tension in your muscles, letting them relax and fall at ease so they can stop tensing and clenching up so hard.
This alone already does a huge chunk for soreness when it comes to muscle pain. The relief of such tenseness and pain can definitely be called a pleasure by many: similar to drinking a bottle of water with a horribly dry throat, or finishing an exhausting task and finally having time to yourself.
It’s in the same vein as these things, which is a reason why we (both physically and psychologically) sometimes feel it as an outright good or pleasurable feeling.
The Healing Power of Massages
Not only does a massage relieve tension in the body, and generally set the muscles at ease so they may relax, it also has a variety of other beneficial effects. One of the main ones is the way massage has been proven to help heal muscles.
When you push your body too far, the micro tears in your muscles appear as a result of the muscles being unused to that level or type of strenuous activity. They’re not quite able to withstand it as well as their daily tasks.
The muscles become inflamed because of this, and there is a compound called cytokine that is produced and is important to the inflammation. When someone who has sore muscles receives a massage, this compound’s production is reduced significantly, and with it, inflammation is reduced, and recuperates and ends faster.
It also seems to be the case that massage also directly increases healing speed, on a cellular level, by stimulating mitochondria to the point where it was increasing the regeneration and repair of the damaged muscle tissue.
So it stops, slows, and reduces the pain, and improves and quickens the healing aspects of the body. The research isn’t extremely conclusive and 100% proven on these points, but the data strongly suggests that massage and these results are very heavily linked.
The Increase of Blood Circulation
Another way that massages are beneficial to the body (and to muscles), and why they feel good, is the specific way that it promotes and assists with blood circulation to the body, in the areas that are massaged.
There are a variety of different health issues and problems that can be caused by poor circulation of the blood. Some of them are listed here, but to give you a quick rundown, things like aches and fatigue are common. Your blood is literally your lifeblood, moving around your body, distributing nutrients (and oxygen!) in places that need it importantly, desperately.
If your circulation is poor, that means some areas are getting neglected, or receiving far less nutrients and oxygen than others, and that can be very bad for obvious reasons.
Massages help in this way by physically assisting the moving of the blood around, pushing and pulling and guiding it throughout the body. This has several effects, and improved blood circulation is just one of them.
One of the other main ones is a reduction in blood pressure, which can be very valuable if you’re someone that has high blood pressure and it’s a medical issue for you. It doesn’t just relax you–which could already help with the blood pressure by itself–but it also helps with the way blood flows throughout the body, which has the positive side-effect of the reduction in your blood pressure.
The Reduction of Stress and Flexibility
This next point relates to the first. When you get a massage, it relaxes you, and that comes with several benefits. You’re less tense, more loose, both physically as well as emotionally. Just getting a shoulder rub sometimes does it for people, so imagine a whole-body massage for someone who’s incredibly sore, for one reason or another?
The increase in your flexibility is also another key point. You get sore and tense from physical issues, usually–the overuse of a muscle group or limb, poor posture in a computer chair, and so on.
Flexibility helps ensure that not only will the current pain be reduced, but if you keep improving the flexibility of your body and your muscles, it means that future physical exertions will probably hurt you less, if at all. You won’t feel as strained if you don’t have to push and pull as hard to get your body to do what you want: it’s as simple as that.
For some people, these effects can last weeks after getting a massage, and remain noticeable for quite some time. This helps if you’re regularly physical, have a job that involves physical labor, etc.
Massaging sore muscles feels good for a variety of reasons, but most of the main ones have been covered in this article: the relief of tension, how massages can heal your muscles and circulate blood, and the improvement of flexibility and removal of stress are the biggest points to remember here.
Enjoying a massage with a sore body is normal because you’re returning to a natural state: more at ease and care-free, not tense and pent-up and in pain because your body has kinks in it at the moment.
Massage has a place in medicine, even if it doesn’t have concrete research, because so many people benefitting from it means it certainly has positive side effects.
If you’ve got sore muscles, consider visiting a massage therapist. You’ll be thanking yourself during, right after, and for quite a while after the visit: and so will your body, too.