Share on PinterestUsing a robotic device, scientists tested whether massage improved muscle healing. Patrick Palej/EyeEm/Getty Images
- A new study finds that robot-delivered mechanotherapy decreased muscle damage and boosted muscle repair in mice with a severe skeletal leg muscle injury.
- The scientists also found that mechanotherapy caused a reduction in certain white blood cells responsible for inflammation.
- Next, scientists will need to confirm whether mechanotherapy has the same effects in humans with severe skeletal muscle injury and whether it can be used clinically.
Skeletal muscle enables the body to move and maintain posture. Direct injury — for instance, from trauma — can impair a person’s movement and quality of life.
People have been using massage and other mechanotherapies for thousands of years to soothe aching and injured muscles. However, the science behind the effects of massage has not been examined in detail.
“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,” explains lead author of the current study Dr. Bo Ri Seo, Ph.D.
“Our work shows a very clear connection between mechanical stimulation and immune function,” he continues.
Like much of the human body, skeletal muscle can repair itself. The process involves three stages:
- destruction and inflammation: 1–3 days
- repair: 3–4 weeks
- remodeling: 3–6 months
When muscle injury occurs, muscle fibers rupture and die. White blood cells invade the injury site, removing the dead muscle cells and activating cells that help mount an immune response. This includes the release of growth factors, cytokines, and chemokines.
During the repair phase, satellite cells, or muscle precursor cells, grow and differentiate into muscle cells. These then replace injured cells in the muscle fiber, and scar tissue forms.
In the remodeling phase, muscle fibers mature, and scar tissue contracts. However, extensive injuries may cause dense scar tissue formation, impeding muscle repair and resulting in incomplete recovery of muscle …….