From hiking to competitive sports to weight-lifting, exercise is an exciting pastime that offers a multitude of health benefits. However, intense or frequent exercise may cause pain and muscle injuries that threaten to compromise an athlete’s performance and well-being. Fortunately, sports massage, designed for the unique needs of those who engage in regular exercise, can help counter some of these risks and ultimately improve the athlete’s ability to perform.
When an athlete is constantly pushing his or her limits, tension builds in the body’s soft tissues and painful injuries or lesions can develop in these tissues. Massage works to release this built-up tension and improve circulation, delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles while simultaneously removing toxins. People engaging in strenuous exercises, particularly those that are unfamiliar, sometimes experience a condition known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which causes pain and swelling several hours after physical activity. A recent study found that sports massage can reduce the symptoms of DOMS by up to 30% by improving blood and lymphatic system circulation.
Old injuries caused by overuse can leave scar tissue in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, causing inflexibility and making a person more susceptible to injury. Massage helps to break down this scar tissue. Massage may also reverse the negative effects of hard training by stretching tissues, improving their elasticity.
Strenuous physical activity may cause muscles to become chronically tight and less flexible, which causes soreness and may place athletes at a greater risk for muscle tears and other injuries. By alleviating muscle tension, massage therapy may counter this unintended consequence of exercise and help to prevent injuries.
Reduce Recovery Time
The intense pressure applied in a sports massage opens the pores in tissue membranes, which allows nutrients and fluids to pass through and removes toxins such as lactic acid. This process encourages muscles to recover more quickly. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario found that post-exercise massage spurs the growth of mitochondria, which generate energy in the cells. This means that massage not only reduces pain and improves the ability of muscles to recover after intense physical activity, but may help to build muscle as well.
Improve Performance by Sharpening Focus Massage therapy increases serotonin and dopamine levels, while lowering the stress hormone cortisol. These changes reduce stress and promote relaxation, which may help improve the athlete’s focus before an event.