The Science Behind Massage for Athletes

You may be a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or a devoted runner, cyclist, or dancer. Or you just kayak the wild waters of downtown Austin, TX. Whether you compete, or just participate, there are some surprising performance benefits to be gained from massage therapy, and we’re here to massage Austin.

If you want to perform consistently, you already know that recovery is important. But, how can you hasten recovery, and up your game?

Most of us are aware of how great massage and massage therapy can make us feel. It can relax, realign, and reset our day. We float out of our session feeling lighter, calmer, more in the moment, and wonder why we don’t do this more often. As if these benefits weren’t enough, there’s more. It’s called the Gene Genie, and when we knead those overworked, overstretched, aching and tired muscles with massage therapy, we let the genie out of the lamp.

Mark Tarnopolsky is a doctor, researcher and cellular scientist who was skeptical about the therapeutic benefits of massage until he suffered a severe hamstring injury while water skiing. He discovered that massage was surprisingly effective at easing his pain, and set out to find out why.

Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues at McMaster University in Canada conducted a study in which 11 men cycled 70 minutes, to the point of exhaustion, and then rested for 10 minutes. During their rest, a therapist performed massage on one leg of each participant, with a variety of techniques commonly used in rehab. Muscle biopsies were obtained from the mens’ quadriceps prior to exertion, immediately following the massage, and at 2 ½ hours post-massage. Unsurprisingly, there were more indicators of cell repair and inflammation in the post-workout samples. What amazed the research team were the differences between the massaged legs, and the unmassaged ones.

The massaged legs had 30% more PGC-1alpha, a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria. Mitochondria are the hidden power lifters that generate metabolic energy (ATP) from nutrients in your food. When you increase the number of your mitochondria, they become more efficient at converting energy into ATP. This means more available energy for working muscles, and the ability to perform faster and longer. They also had three times less NF-kB, a major player in immune response that turns on genes associated with inflammation.

Their study is published in Science Translational Medicine. An abstract of the study may be seen here:

“In summary, when administered to skeletal muscle that has been acutely damaged through exercise, massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis”.

The results of the study also indicate that massage therapy blunts pain about as much as most pain meds, and could be an effective alternative.

Another study, published by the National Center for Biotechnology showed that massage decreases cortisol levels, while increasing helpful serotonin and dopamine.

At Myologic, our finely tuned powers of observation allow us to identify sometimes-subtle structural quirks that each of us embody. Some of these quirks make our movements less efficient. For an athlete, this can literally slow them down. Through our work, we are able to free up muscles and fascia, allowing you to move more efficiently.  When we correct these things, skeletal alignment is improved. Speed is increased, while stress, strain and injuries are decreased.


What motivates us is you, and your story. We Gather information by actively listening to your history, your concerns, and your goals. Do you just want relief from some nagging discomfort or injury, or are you training for the Olympics? We Guide you through a tailored approach, designed specifically for you. Then, we Go! by letting the Genie out of the bottle.