Most people think of massage as a “luxury item” or as a form of spa pampering, but massage from a qualified sports massage therapist can have a significant impact on your athletic performance, as well as help you recover from injury so you can get back to your workout routine (see our treadmill reviews here) faster. Massage has the ability to impact just about every part of your anatomy. Here are a few reasons to incorporate massage into your fitness and healthcare regimen.
The manual pressure of massage causes blood vessels to dilate, which improves and promotes circulation, causing the muscular waste byproducts of exercise to be carried away for processing, and new freshly oxygenated blood to enter the tissues to speed recovery. Massage and self myofascial release (foam rolling) have been shown to improve vascular function, enabling your body to more efficiently utilize nutrients and transport energy throughout the body via the circulatory system.
It’s well known that an active stretching routine can improve flexibility over time, and massage can have the same results as the act of massaging tissues is in effect, a passive stretch. Massage can help you break through some types of flexibility road blocks by breaking up scar tissue and fascial adhesions that you may not be able to address on your own through stretching.
Regular massage therapy has been shown to reduce the potential for injuries by improving muscular elasticity and ensuring proper circulation. If an injury does occur, massage can reduce recovery time by speeding healing and minimizing scar tissue formation in the affected area, as well as promoting immune system function to encourage overall resilience.
Enhanced Nerve Function
Tight muscles or inflamed fascia from intense workouts can cause nerves to become impinged and prevent proper nerve function and signaling. When a tight muscle pinches a nerve it can cause pain, tingling, numbness, muscular weakness and eventually muscular atrophy. Though there are many examples of fitness induced nerve impingement, overuse of the pecs in bench pressing and/or push-ups is a common example. Tight and overworked pecs can impinge the brachial nerve, causing pain and/or loss of function in the forearm and hand that an athlete might not trace back to an impingement higher on the nerve within the chest. Massage can effectively loosen the affected muscles and restore proper nerve function.
Promotes Psychological Well-Being
Coaches often talk about the “head game” in athletics, and how to improve your mental toughness or best your opponent with intimidation. All of those athletic head games can take a tole on anyone, and leading to stress and anxiety. According to the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, “Tactical maneuvering in cycling or an ability to focus on a task (e.g., gymnastics or golf) can also affect performance. Therefore, the psychological effect provided to an athlete by an experience such as massage may be of importance in a non-physiological manner.” An opportunity to relax, by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels while reducing cortisol can improve focus and mental performance, which may be just what you need to improve your game.
Less Sick Time
High levels of stress, be they from intense workouts and competition or just life in general can result in more time spent sick. Chronic inflammation has also been shown to be associated with a variety of illnesses. Massage helps to reduce both stress and inflammation, but it also benefits the immune system in other ways. Research shows that “regular massage not only helps alleviate stress, but can naturally increase the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (the activity level of the body’s natural “killer cells”) and decrease the number of T-cells, which improves the body’s immune functioning overall.” A study funded by the National Institute for Health found that massage boosted a patients immune response/strength both during and after the session.
Enhanced Energy Metabolism
New research shows that massage can impact the energy metabolism of cells through encouraging the production of mitochondria (energy producing units in the cell. “On the cellular level massage reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of new mitochondria in skeletal muscle.” Not only does massage feel good while you’re receiving it, but it’s helping your muscles function better on a cellular level over the long term.
And after you work out the kinks with a great massage, we recommend hoping some at-home fitness equipment. See below for popular ideas: