Why massaging your muscles is important (and how to do it yourself)

Rest is crucial for recovering from muscle injury and here's how you can speed up the process

Getty
(Image credit: Getty)

Allowing the body to rest between workouts is very important. Not only can over-training be damaging to your health, working out while sore and exhausted sucks the fun out of the process.

Most (good) training programmes contain scheduled, dedicated rest days. Alongside this, many people aid their post-workout recovery with additional dietary protein. If you're looking to supplement your intake, save some money with this year's Black Friday protein discounts. 

Massage, whether you do it yourself with the best foam roller or you attend professional sessions, can speed this process up. It has long been associated with relieving perceived pain caused by tight muscles after strenuous activity or injury. But now science has revealed that massage can also help your muscles heal quicker and stronger.

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and SEAS used a custom-designed robotic system to deliver consistent massage forces to the injured muscles of mice. Focusing on the leg, they found that the process rapidly cleared immune cells called neutrophils out of severely injured muscle tissue.

Women uses a foam roller on her hamstring in a gym studio setting

(Image credit: Getty)

They also found that the massage therapy removed inflammatory proteins released by neutrophils from the muscles, enhancing the process of muscle regeneration. The first author of the study, Bo Ri Seo, said, “Lots of people have been trying to study the beneficial effects of massage and other mechanotherapies on the body, but up to this point it hadn’t been done in a systematic, reproducible way.

“Our work shows a very clear connection between mechanical stimulation and immune function.”

This is the latest in a pile of research papers promoting the importance of regular massage for the muscles, and a foam roller or massage gun such as Theragun is an excellent accessory for doing so. The use of foam rolling has been proven to improve recovery rate for athletes after activity. 

A separate study has stated that massaging your muscle for as short a time as 10 minutes can drop your cortisol levels by 31%, making us less stressed. However, foam rolling is hardly the most relaxing activity in the world – for the uninitiated, it's quite a painful experience at first – but nevertheless, it's a great home massage tool. If you want to feel a little more zen, a calming scent such as lavender from one of the best oil diffusers can help replicate that massage studio feel at home.

This ten minute video below will walk you through a foam rolling recovery sequence designed for the legs:

Jessica Downey
Jessica Downey

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. She is a keen runner and is currently sweating her way through a 10k training plan. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen - which she loves sharing with others on her healthy living-inspired Instagram account, @jessrunshere. Despite her love for nutritious cooking, she stands by the saying ‘everything in moderation’ and is eagerly conquering the London food and drink scene!