Massage for Recuperation - Health Benefits of Massage Therapy
has been an important part of European training programs for many
years. Just recently, North American athletes have learned to appreciate
the value of massage. Numerous studies have found promising evidence
to support the benefits of massage. It is undoubtable that massage
has benefits for athletes. Massage can also help maintain the health
Maintenance of Muscle
Massage can help improve muscle recovery, which leads to more efficient
training. Massage can improve the circulation of bodily fluids.
With increased circulation, tissues are better able to receive nutrients
and other substances that are vital for optimal body functioning.
Massage also helps decrease the swelling of muscles and relaxes
and stretches sore muscles.
Massage does not directly affect normal muscle strength but it
is more effective than rest at optimizing recovery capabilities.
Massage keeps your muscles healthy and flexible. All athletes should
have massages from on a regular basis. Once you have a massage,
you will be amazed how good you will feel after the massage and
how much more productive your training will become.
Massage Before Competition
massage can be a tool for increasing or decreasing the stimulation
level of nerve cells, ligaments, and joints, which helps in keeping
them loose and flexible. This can help to prevent excessive micro-trauma.
Massage before a competition focuses on stretching and warming up
the tendons and ligaments of the legs and arms. These connective
tissues do not have their own blood supply; therefore it takes longer
to warm them up. Massage improves the bodies' circulation; hence
improved blood flow to the tendons and ligaments.
It is important that an athlete's tendons and ligaments be properly
warmed up before engaging in a competition. When properly warmed
up, performance ability is increased and the chance of injury is
decreased. Pre-competition massage also helps nervous athletes to
relax and calm down before competition. It is recommended that the
massage should be performed before the specific warm-up. After the
massage, pre-competition stretching and warming up should be performed.
Massage After A Competition
A massage after an athletic event is very relaxing for the body
and the mind. Massages performed after a workout or competition
help to relieve the effects of muscular fatigue. Massage helps the
body by relieving soreness and stiffness and it allows the muscles
to maintain flexibility and looseness. The joints, tendons and ligaments
are also helped in the same manner. Research suggests that post-workout
or post-competition massage can speed up recovery time by as much
as two times faster than rest alone. When given a massage, the body
is able to transport nutrients and oxygen better to the muscles
because of the enhanced blood flow.
The byproducts of metabolism are also carried away from the muscles
more efficiently; thereby increasing recovery time. Intense exercise
results in micro-trauma. Massage can help decrease the soreness
associated with micro-trauma. The post workout massage should last
at least 30 minutes. This allows adequate time for the body to be
relieved physically and mentally.
The massage should also be given a minimum of 90 minutes after
your last meal. This allows the meal too be partially digested before
the massage begins. During digestion, most of the body's blood flow
is directed toward the stomach. By allowing partial digestion to
have taken place, the massage is better able to direct the blood
flow to the muscles.
Massage Helps Injuries
Massage has been shown to accelerate the recovery of injured muscles.
Massage also allows for a greater range of motion of the injured
muscle. However, massage therapy for muscle damage should not be
performed immediately after the injury. This has a tendency to worsen
the condition. Massage therapy should not be given any sooner than
48 hours after an injury occurs to be sure the swelling and pain
have ceased before receiving the massage therapy.
therapy induces blood and lymph movement, which increases nutrition
to the muscles and joints and also reduces swelling and eliminates
inflammatory waste products. Deep breathing, massage or muscular
movement induces lymph movement.
While athletes of every kind use sports massage, the hard research
as to whether and how it works has been sparse. But a 2008 study
by Ohio State University researchers found evidence that Swedish
massage improved the time it took for the muscle to recover and
the massaged muscles had less damage and less evidence of swelling
Massaged Muscles Showed Improved Recovery
The difference in strength recovery between massaged muscles was
significant - 60% strength compared to 15% for the non-massaged
muscles. The researchers also saw that the massaged muscles had
fewer damaged muscle fibers and no sign of white blood cells present
to repair muscle damage. The massaged muscles showed less sign of
swelling, weighing 8% less than the non-massaged muscles.
Should You Get Sports Massage?
Many studies suggest that there is a benefit to sports massage after
a hard exercise workout. Walkers training for a half marathon or
marathon may benefit from sports massage after their long workouts.
Vigorous, intense, exercise overloads the skeletal-muscular apparatus
and the cardiovascular system, causing an accumulation of metabolic
waste products in tissues (some of which are toxic), straining the
endocrine system, and even the immune system. When overloaded, the
muscular system reacts by accumulating tension in muscles. This,
in turn, disturbs metabolic processes in the skeletal and muscular
systems. A higher muscular tonus (especially in the extremities)
contributes to an increase in the peripheral vascular resistance,
which is the main opposition mechanism for left-side cardiac work.
In such a case, the cardiovascular system is not only overloaded
during vigorous exercise, but also is prevented from resting due
to higher peripheral vascular resistance. Given the facts described
above, the endocrine system cannot function in its normal physiological
Additionally, over-tensed muscles produce pain, soreness, and fatigue.
Understandably, if an athlete is not rehabilitated from the side-effects
of vigorous exercise, we can assume that in some cases, the athlete
can possibly do more harm than good to the body. The athlete can,
as a matter fact, achieve less than his or her physiological potential
with lack of proper rehabilitation.
How Massage Helps
massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise
and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological
benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation,
muscle relaxation and general relaxation. These in turn lead to
removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization
and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points
and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness
and stiffness, better flexibility and less potential for future
In addition to general recovery, massage may also focus on specific
muscles used in sport or fitness activity. For example, areas of
greater stress for runners and dancers are in the legs, for swimmers
in the upper body, for tennis players in the arms, for golfers in
the low back. These areas are more likely to be tight, lose flexibility
and develop trigger points.
Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the overtraining
syndrome. Overtraining is characterized by irritability, apathy,
altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting
heart rate, and/ or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed
to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic
massage helps to avoid overtraining by facilitating recovery through
general relaxation and other physiological effects.
You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past
injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these
areas, monitor them for developing problems and help keep them in
The bottom line is that before your workout, massage will stimulate
your muscles and prepare them to contract fully. It will normalize
your neurological responses so you will get a more complete workout.
Massage will warm up your muscles, unglue the fascia and prepare
you for deeper stretching. Massage will get rid of the impact of
your stressful day so you can focus on your workout. A pre-workout
massage will reduce your chance of injury during your workout. All
professional athletes depend on massage before they play.
After your workout, massage will pump out lactic acid from your
tissues resulting in less soreness and fatigue the next day. It
will give your tissues the all important stretching you never take
the time to do at the end of your workout. Massage will normalize
the neuromuscular relationship allowing the muscles to relax reducing
cramping and shortening of the contractile fibers. Massage will
help remove excess fluids from the joints reducing inflammation
and healing time for any damaged tissues. A post-workout massage
is a very important part of training, which can really maximize
the benefits of your time at the gym.
Richard A. DiCenso