What are the Benefits of Sports Massage?
According to the AMTA, the benefits of sports massage are:
- Reduction in muscle tension
- Decrease muscle soreness and stiffness post-exercise (DOMS)
- Enhance sports performance
- Prevent injuries after receiving treatment
- Increased range of motion
- Increase in relaxation
You’ll notice that the benefits all aim to improve performance and decrease the downsides of taking part in activities. The downsides we’re talking about here are mainly pain, muscle stiffness and physiological tension.
Can Sports Massage Benefit Me?
Sports massage can become a part of any athlete’s regular activities – cyclists, swimmers and runners can all benefit from regular massage. Many massage therapists believe that a sports massage will benefit those who don’t even take part in sports activities. The average day for many of us involves sitting at a desk with bad posture for long periods of time which doesn’t make us feel great and can eventually harm our bodies. This can lead us to experience stress and tension in the body over a period of time. As Andy Stanbury of the English Institute of Sport says, taking care of your body can help reach optimal performance, even if your ‘high performance sport’ is your desk job.A sports massage works deeper into the muscles than a Swedish or deep tissue massage to give more relief to the body. People seeking any advantage to enhance performance search for solutions to natural problems like pain and stiffness which can hinder their ability to perform even in day-to-day activities. A sports massage is different from other types of massage like deep tissue or Swedish because with sports massage, the aim is not to complete relaxation but to help enhance your performance.
Why Choose Sports Massage?According to WebMD, there’s now over 80 different types of massage therapy style. Essentially what matters is what you’re looking for: do you want simple relaxation or do you want to reduce your level pain and increase performance? If it’s the latter, then sports massage could be for you. Since it’s not aimed at relaxation there may be some level of discomfort involved but the aim is to get someone performing at their best by removing stress and tension. You can always tell your therapist if you experience too much discomfort and they will check to make sure you are happy with the massage. If you're just looking for some well deserved relaxation and you don't really have any signs of stress and tension in your body (lucky you) then it's best to choose Swedish or Deep Tissue.
Prevent PainDOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is the pain you feel in your muscles within a day of exercise which can get worse between 24 and 72 hours after. Anyone who has exercised intensely will know that it's sore, but it's almost a badge of honor to know that you've worked really hard. Depending on this level of pain though, DOMS can make functioning in other activities a bit harder. By stimulating the blood and lymph to flow through your body, this natural fatigue can, to an extent, be prevented. For example, a footballer playing on Wednesday night has to be ready again for training and a Saturday game. DOMS will inhibit their ability to perform at their best. A good massage is another way to help reduce the pain and is much more pleasant than an ice bath!One study in 2003 even found that regular sports massage reduced the need for painkillers by 34%. Several studies find that massage therapy reduced headaches, migraines and contributed to better sleep. Over 12 studies now show that massage therapy can also help to relieve anxiety and depression.
Research from McMaster University in Ontario showed that after exercise, massage could reduce inflammation and promote growth in the cells. This means that we can reasonably expect massage to help aid an athlete in recovery. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that massage could increase the range of motion and flexibility in the muscles. A positive side-effect of having flexibility in the body is the ability to reduce the chance of sustaining a sports injury. Improving the elasticity of muscle tissue is a main focus since exercise can cause them to become hard and inelastic.The ability of massage to reduce stress, tension and anxiety can have a pivotal effect on performance, particularly at a high level. If an action needs to be performed exactly at the right time to get the best results, we would want to reduce any negative physical and psychological factors which could impact on the ability to perform. This is another reason why athletes might want to receive a massage before performance. It's fairly standard for athletes to receive a massage, even for 10 minutes, before competitive games.
Sports massage, like any other massage, can also release endorphins in your body. America Spa says these endorphins can act as a natural pain reliever. You might have heard of the ‘natural high’ you receive during exercise, endorphins during massage are similar and can both help to reduce pain. These endorphins can also improve your general mood and decrease levels of anxiety.