Professional athletes and their coaches have sworn by massage therapy for years. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage acts to improve performance, reduce pain, prevent injury, encourage focus, and shorten recovery time. However, those benefits are not just for the professionals. Anyone who participates in a regular exercise program can reap the rewards of a massage. The AMTA states massage can have the following benefits:
- Massage therapy increases flexibility. For an athlete to maintain optimal performance, they must maintain a high degree of flexibility. Since massage therapy stretches the muscle fibers, flexibility is promoted and maintained.
- Massage therapy improves circulation. With better circulation, the athlete can breathe more easily and move more efficiently. Massage therapy helps with blood flow, thus improving the circulation of the athlete and enhancing performance levels.
- Massage therapy alleviates muscle pain. If an athlete is in pain due to an injury, they are not able to perform at their best. With regular massage therapy, muscle pain can be curbed, and the athlete can perform better.
- Massage therapy promotes better sleep patterns. By getting regular massages, athletes can improve the quality of sleep they are getting each night. Getting a good night’s sleep helps athletes perform at an optimal level.
- Massage therapy increases relaxation levels. Research shows that many athletes have a “Type-A” personality and have a hard time relaxing, and stress can affect an athlete’s overall health. Massage puts one’s body and mind in a relaxed state, thus reducing the negative physiological effects of stress.
As an athlete, there are many different types of massage you may receive. Each type will have different benefits. A sports massage often involves fast-paced techniques, stretching, and other types of treatments. It can be focused on a pre-workout stretch and opportunity to warm up the muscles or used as a post-workout massage designed to reduce soreness and increase flexibility. Deep tissue massage, usually including neuromuscular therapy and the release of trigger points, can be very effective, because it works on particular conditions in layers of muscles and fascia. This type of massage often brings intense sensations associated with trigger points, which are hyperirritable spots in the fascia surrounding skeletal muscle that are associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers. To achieve a release of trigger points, there is generally more penetration into the tissue.
At Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, recent research on massage therapy following strenuous exercise showed that massage therapy reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells. These results translate into pain relief, re-building of muscles, and acceleration in the recovery from strenuous exercise for athletes of all kinds. To learn more about the massage therapy program at Health Works Institute, click here.