What does Sports Massage do?
One question that I am always asked as a Sports Massage Therapist is ‘What does massage do?’
Massage is defined as mechanical manipulation of the body’s tissues with rhythmical pressure and stroking for the purpose of promoting health and well-being. Sports massage has been used for centuries in an attempt to prevent and cure injuries due to its biomechanical, physiological, neurological and psychological mechanisms. Listed below are the beneficial effects of a sports massage on the body and why it should be incorporated into a recovery phase after exercise.
Sports Massage will increase skin and muscle temperature
The superficial skin friction that occurs during a massage increases local heating, therefore increasing blood flow to the tissues. This will enhance the delivery of oxygen, protein and other nutrients that are needed for muscle repair, as well as removing waste products that build up within the muscles after exercise.
Sports Massage for increased blood flow
Lactate is found within the blood during and after exercise and this promotes fatigue and increases recovery time. The removal of blood lactate can be increased after strenuous exercise by increasing blood flow during a massage. However, it has been suggested that cooling down after exercise has a superior blood lactate removal rate, so always remember to cool down after any exercise!
Increased lymphatic drainage with Sports Massage
By stimulating lymphatic drainage after exercise, swelling and stiffness can be reduced due to the reduction of the muscle interstitial content, therefore decreasing muscle discomfort.
Sports Massage reduces muscle tension
Muscle tension can be reduced by sports massage as the neuromuscular excitability is decreased, therefore allowing the pain previously experienced to be reduced. When sports massage is applied effectively the reduced muscle tension can be remarkable. Muscles can go from feeling quite hard to quite soft in just a few sessions. Depending on the techniques used we can get most muscle to loosen up eventually.
Sports Massage for the prevention of muscular injury
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually occurs 24 to 72 hours after unaccustomed exercise, with consequences such as muscle stiffness, soreness and loss of muscle strength, which could lead to an increased risk of injury. Massage is commonly used in DOMS due to the effects listed above as well as increasing muscle flexibility and more importantly, reducing pain!
Rehabilitation and Sports Massage
Sports massage is an important part of rehabilitation during an injury as it can help to realign fibres, therefore helping to reduce muscle spasm, increase joint range of motion, stimulate pain receptors and reduce blood pressure. An increase in blood microcirculation can help to increase nutrition to the injured area.
Sports Massage for Relaxation
During a sports massage, the level of endorphins is increased, and stress hormones are decreased, which will allow the client to feel more relaxed after a massage.
Benefits for athletes using Sports Massage
The greatest advantages of sports massage are that it helps to overcome fatigue, reduces recovery time, especially during competitions, and consequently enhances performance at an event. A pre-event massage can help to decrease pre-competition anxiety as well as prepare the muscles for competition, therefore aiding an athlete during an event.
Brummitt, J. (2008) The role of massage is sports performance and rehabilitation: current evidence and future direction, North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy Section, 3(1): 7–21.
Weeapong, P., Huine, P.A., Kolt, G.S. (2005) The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention, Sports Medicine, 35(3): 235–256.