For athletes and those who exercise frequently, muscles become tense and tight and imbalances in soft tissue may occur from the repetitive and strenuous nature of the exercise. Sports massage is a form of physical therapy that involves the manipulation of soft tissue to release tension and help the athlete reach peak physical conditioning, to perform better, recover quicker and be less prone to injury.
Sports massage is designed to prepare the body for repetitive, vigorous physical activity. During this type of exercise, muscle tension builds up in the soft connective tissues. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, muscles and more, which are all prone to injuries and lesions that can greatly impact an athlete’s performance.
For example during long-distance running, your body incurs extreme muscular damage due to the impact of hitting the ground for prolonged periods of time. Marathon runners who run in popular marathons like the London Marathon are repeatedly hitting the pavement for sometimes 3 to 4 hours, which damages your joints and tightens your muscles to attempt to protect your body from injury.
This form of physical therapy was popularized by the Olympic gold medal runner Paavo Nurmi in the 1920s who accredited his running success to sports massages. They can be used pre or post-exercise and for rehabilitation, for athletes and non-athletes alike, to optimize physical performance.
One of the most common performance inhibitors is delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This refers to the muscle pains and aches that occur as a result of strenuous physical activity and typically develops 12-24 hours post-exercise.
DOMS occurs as a result of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage, which is not viewed as dangerous or reflective of an injury necessarily but can seriously impact training and performance. Studies have shown a link between reduced DOMS in the case of sports massages post-exercise. For example, one study found that sports massage was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30% and helps to reduce the swelling of connective tissue.
As well as DOMS, vigorous and sustained physical activity can cause circulation problems, increase white blood cells, increase cortisol and adrenaline levels and can temporarily weaken the immune system.
Sports massage has been shown to reverse these negative side effects associated with long-distance running by helping to improve blood circulation and promote the drainage of the lymphatic system. This assists in the removal of metabolites and other toxins, like lactic acid and is done through various techniques including effleurage, compression and skin rolling.
Sports massages have been shown in research to increase range of motion and flexibility by affecting both the muscular and connective tissues. One study found that sports massage increases hip flexion by over 10 degrees which helps to optimize physical performance.
If you want to recover quicker, reduce your chance of injury, help to strengthen your immune system and feel psychologically and physiologically calmer and more relaxed pre or post-exercise, you need to try a sports massage today.