Getting a massage after intense exercise helps sore muscles recover faster and a new study reveals why. Eleven volunteers exercised to exhaustion on a stationary bicycle and then (after a short rest) received a ten minute sports massage on one leg but not the other. Muscle biopsies revealed reduced signs of exercise-induced inflammation in the massaged leg compared with the untreated leg; massage also boosted the pathways responsible for production of cells energy-generating mitochondria, which promote muscle function. Contrary to popular belief, massage did not work by flushing lactic acid from muscles, the study showed; postworkout pain is due to inflammation, not lactic acid, which is cleared from muscles within minutes of exercise, explains study coauthor Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. Massage may prove to be a good alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs for some people and may particularly help repair damaged muscles after people push themselves beyond their normal limits, such as by running a marathon, he says.