Everyday aches and pains have made us forget how good our bodies should feel. As an athlete, you are constantly pushing yourself to your physical limits and demanding the most from your body. Recurring physical stress from daily training and overuse may cause muscle pain, inflammation, soreness, chronic fatigue, and even injury. To be able to continue training, meeting your goals, and performing as well as you want requires recovery. Studies have proven that massage therapy can help athletes be proactive in avoiding injuries while serving as a vital component in the recovery efforts as they work on improving mobility and maximizing their athletic performance.
What Are Sports Massages?
A sports massage is not just one modality, instead it is a compilation of massage techniques that can only be achieved through systematic manipulation of the soft tissues in the areas that are exerted during training or a particular sport.
- Pétrissage – These massage techniques involve kneading, wringing, and scooping strokes.
- Effleurage – These techniques are performed by applying light to moderate pressure and are applied along the muscle from a distal to proximal sequence.
- Deep transverse (or deep tissue) – These massages are done by applying force transversely across problem areas.
How Do Athletes Benefit From Sports Massage?
Through clinical studies and research, we have discovered the many benefits of sports massages for athletes. These include isokinetic and isometric peak strength, increased joint range of motion, creatine kinase levels, blood lactate, and vertical and long jumps.
The American Massage Therapy Association has listed several benefits of massage therapy for athletes, such as…
- Reduced Muscle Pain
- Minimal Muscle Swelling and Spasms
- Alleviated Muscle Tension and Stiffness
- Faster Healing of Strained Muscles and Sprained Ligaments
- Improved Performance
Regular sports massage sessions help keep athletes at the top of their game by staying one step ahead of injuries caused by overuse or those related to compensation. Being able to pinpoint problem areas prior to issues developing should be a priority for any athlete hoping to work their bodies to their limits. You will find that the benefits of routine massage will quickly add up– flexibility, range of motion, shortened recovery periods, and better sleep are some of the first improvements athletes notice when they add sports massage and self-care into their everyday lives.
Improving Athletic Performance And Recovery
By including an effective approach into your recovery plan, you will be able to improve your overall performance to maintain that competitive edge you rely so heavily on. A systematic review was done to analyze multiple studies and assess muscle recovery and performance after a post-workout sports massage. Of those, two evaluated improved muscle function following massage therapy and seven focused on post-exercise function and delayed onset soreness (DOMS) ratings and illustrated the positive outcomes associated with massage therapy and moderate evidence to support optimized performance and recovery. It has been proven that shorter duration massages, 5-12 minutes, have better results than longer massages with improvements in work in endurance, vertical jumps, and cycling sprint.
Reducing Muscle Fatigue
What is muscle fatigue? It is described as a loss of power as the result of declining force and velocity and is a subjective assessment. Many studies have proven the positive results and impact that sport massages have on muscle fatigue. During a double-blind, randomized control trial, the effect sports massages have on muscle pain and perceived fatigue, specifically on the quadriceps of 74 athletes after a competitive triathlon were examined. This study determined that the massage group had significantly lower fatigue ratings and subjective pain. The Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy published another study that examined the effects of massage and pneumatic compression for perceived pain and fatigue following an ultramarathon. During this study, 72 finishers of the marathon were randomly divided into three groups (control, pneumatic compression, and massage). Those that received massages claimed to have significantly less muscle fatigue than those in the control group.
Improving Mobility & Range Of Motion
To perform advanced gymnastics, Olympic lifting movements, and training modalities including high-intensity functional training, mobility is essential. Studies have found that massage therapy for athletes improves flexibility, joint mobility, and range of motion through myofascial release. However, results vary and illustrate more significant improvements with shorter duration massages with immediate, but not long term, effects on an athlete’s mobility. Sports massage may be increasingly effective at identifying areas that are associated with inflammation. Such areas can limit mobility and range of motion.
Reducing Tension, Stress, And Anxiety
Massages are often used to reduce tension, stress, and anxiety. Much of an athlete’s performance is psychological so when you are able to effectively reduce stress, tension, and improve one’s mood, you will see an improved athletic performance. Studies have proven that positive perceptions of reduced stress, anxiety, and relaxation occur with routine massage therapy.
Walk Away Knowing…
That sports massages are an effective way to improve workout recovery, enhance mobility, and minimize inflammation. While some studies might be limited and more evidence is needed to determine the overall impact sports massage has on performance, athletes have claimed that such massages make them feel better– and we can’t argue with that. The psychological benefits of sports massages alone can dramatically improve an athlete’s performance by reducing stress, anxiety, and tension, by improving one’s overall mood, and by relieving muscle fatigue. So, if you want to feel better and speed up your recovery, consider adding a sports massage into your recovery regimen.
About TPS Massage
TPS MaSSAGE Focuses on professional athletes and weekend warriors. We have years of training and experience working with pro athletes and weekend warriors. We use a variety of methods and techniques such as MAT™, Deep Tissue Massage, Cupping, Kinesio Taping, and more, to attend to all your body needs for a full recovery and outstanding experience.
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