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The Benefits of Massage

Anyone who is a fan of exercise should strongly consider massage therapy as part of an overall lifestyle choice. It is the perfect way to include stress relief in your exercise program. There are, however, other key benefits as well.

Massage therapy, is actually a combination of several different techniques. The overall point of massage is to help muscles relax and relieve tension in the body with a combination of hand strokes and gentle oils. Frequently a therapist will have relaxing music or gentle sounds to help the patient relax more.

Some massage may not have immediate health effects. These deep tissue massages release fluids and tension within deep muscles. The effects are normally delayed, but the next day the general overall feeling is vastly improved. Other benefits include…

  1. Improved circulation and general nutrition of muscles. This appears to be the most valuable fitness-related benefit. Massage is accompanied or followed by an increase interchange of substances between the blood and the tissue cells, which increases tissue metabolism. Massage maximizes the supply of nutrients and oxygen though increased blood flow, which helps the body rebuild itself.

  2. Improved range of motion and muscle flexibility. This results in increased power and performance, which helps you work efficiently and with proper intensity to facilitate the body’s muscle-building response.

  3. Helps shorten recovery time between workouts. Waste products such as lactic and carbonic acid build up in muscles after exercise. Increased circulation to these muscles helps to eliminate toxic debris and shorten recovery time.

  4. Can help prevent over-training. Massage has a relaxing effect on the muscles, as well as a sedative effect on the nervous system. This can prevent over-training syndrome, which has a limiting effect on muscle building.

  5. Helps prevent and even heal injuries. By stretching connective tissue, massage improves circulation to help prevent or break down adhesions. Massage also influences the excretion of certain fluids (nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur) necessary for tissue repair.

Types of Massage

Each type of massage is designed for a particular need. Here is a brief summary and definition of the most popular massage techniques. (All definitions below are from MassageEnvy.com)

  • Trigger Point Therapy: A trigger point is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body. Trigger point massage therapy is specifically designed to alleviate the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. In this type of massage for trigger point therapy, the recipient actively participates through deep breathing as well as identifying the exact location and intensity of the discomfort.

  • Swedish Massage: Swedish massage therapy is the modality that comes to mind when most people think about massage. As the best-known type of bodywork performed today, one of the primary goals of the Swedish massage technique is to relax the entire body. This is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart. But Swedish massage therapy goes beyond relaxation. Swedish massage is exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.

  • Deep Tissue Massage: Deep tissue massage therapy is similar to Swedish massage, but the deeper pressure is beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension. The focus is on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia (the protective layer surrounding muscles, bones and joints).

  • Sports Massage: Sports massage therapy is geared toward athletes. The particulars of the sports massage technique are specific to the athlete’s sport of choice. Focusing on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements.

Sports Massage

The sports massage actually came from the Swedish massage technique. Geared specifically to the athlete, this massage focuses on muscles that have seen a large degree of stress and use, often to the point of overuse. Normally, these are muscles that have seen repetitive and aggressive movement as a part of the overall sport or competition.

The sports massage is now recognized by many in the training industry as an accepted component to an overall regimen of training and competition. This means the athlete can enhance pre-competition and reduce the required recovery period, which means a better and more intensive training session after competition. Flexibility, a necessary component of any athletic completion, is also a part.

Many do not realize it, but the sports massage has certain characteristics that make it ideal for athletes. The targeting of the muscle and tendons within the body is key for athletic training. A study in 2010 in America found athletes who had massages before and after strength training saw a definite decrease in soreness after activity.

There are several key elements to sports massage. To better understand each of these, let’s look at them separately.

  • Motion and Flexibility: Professional and superior athletes often overtrain and this leads to muscle rigidity. Sports massage can help relax overly tense muscles and provide additional flexibility. Used before a competition, it will relax the muscles for flexibility, improving performance.

  • Shortens Recovery Time: Exercise and competition is stressful on the body. This will lead to injury if proper precautions are not taken. Sports massages are ideal to help the body deal with this stress and injury prevention. A proper massage increases blood flow and lymph fluid, both assisting in the body’s natural healing process, speeding waste removal and general health improvement. Swelling and inflammation associated with physical activity is also reduced. Scar tissue, normal from a severe injury, can be lessened with massage.

  • Supply of Oxygen and Nutrients: Blood flow into muscles is vital to creating new tissue and increased strength and stamina. Massage increases blood flow for additional oxygen and nutrients.

  • Helps Eliminate By-Products of Exercise: Lactic and uric acids are natural by-products of exercise. Each can be lessened with blood and lymph flow in the body and increase the waste output by a sports massage.

  • Psychological Benefits: There is much to be said about psychology and sports. Many do not realize the value of a massage with sports and how a quality massage has more than just physical benefits. The body is only as strong as the mind, so having a strong mind that is relaxed and focused is a definite edge in highly competitive sports. A stressed athlete is not nearly as capable as one with a clear mind.

  • Reduces Pain: A body in pain is a sign of overworked muscles and is not healthy. Massage increases blood and lymph fluid flow, thereby speeding the injury rehabilitation process. A massage also helps with pain from spasms and cramps, common with elite athletic training.

 (Definitions kindly supplied by stretchmaster.com)