Benefits of Massage for Athletes
Clare May 28, 2015
Do you find yourself exercising more now that the weather is more conducive to being outdoors? Are you currently training for a race, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or marathon? Are you a player on a sports team? Have you noticed any pain or soreness recently from your workouts?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may benefit from receiving a sports massage!
In an article published by the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, sports massage is defined as a "collection of massage techniques performed on athletes or active individuals for the purpose of aiding recovery or treating pathology. Three forms of massage are frequently reported in the sports medicine literature: effleurage, petrissage, and deep transverse friction massage (DTFM)".
Effleurage is a technique used in Swedish massage that consists of a light, stroking motion that serves to warm up the muscle to allow for deeper work without pain. Petrissage is a kneading technique in which the therapist uses his or her palm, fingertip, or thumb, in order to apply deeper pressure. Deep transverse friction massage (also known as cross-friction massage) is a long, sweeping motion in which the therapist's fingertips run along an entire limb or area with even, deep pressure.
In addition to those three techniques, massage therapists will typically also incorporate compression and stretching into a sports massage. Compression is used to soften the connective tissue, as well as increase blood flow to tight muscles. After muscles are relaxed, the therapist will stretch certain areas to help with pain relief and flexibility. In turn, one will notice increased range-of-motion (ROM) that will improve sport-specific training.
If you are preparing for a race, consider whether a pre-event or post-event sports massage is best for you. Both offer unique benefits, but in many cases, it may not possible to receive massage before and after a race. A pre-event sports massage is usually received up to 24 hours prior to an event, and functions as a warm-up. The purpose is to encourage better circulation and help you mentally prepare. A post-event sports massage, received up to 24 hours after an event, is meant to help with recovery. Australian blog PhysioWorks sums it up: "Athletes push themselves harder during an event than while training. It's your competitive spirit pushing you to the limit. For example, during a marathon most athletes run a greater distance during the event than they've ever run during their training. A massage afterward is vital to assist a hasty pain-free recovery." Post-event massage will help you get back to training more quickly with less soreness.
By combining the above techniques, a massage therapist is able to target specific problem areas common in people who exercise. It's important to note that some soreness will occur after the massage if the therapist applied deep pressure. This can be avoided to some extent by drinking a large amount of water. While there aren't conclusive studies about the importance of drinking water after a massage, many therapists believe that massage releases toxins from muscles into the blood stream. Drinking water after a massage is thought to flush out the toxins, thereby increasing the benefits of the massage.
Consider booking an appointment for a sports massage to ensure your optimal performance and well-being!
For further reading, please check out the links below.