The benefits of sports massage
For years, I’ve heard people saying that massage is great for muscle repair and recovery. Of course, I’ve also experienced the benefits of massage from a variety of sports massage therapists. And since the G-Force (aka Gordon Lacey) has been doing his diplomas in Swedish massage and now sports and remedial massage, the conversations have often been about little else. I don’t mind because it’s a fascinating topic (and I also benefit from being one of his case studies!).
I’ve also been witness to the other case studies who have walked out of our house smiling, looking happier and saying they feel a lot less achy and a lot looser after one of his massages.
But I’ve never really understood the technical and medical reasons behind the benefits of massage. So, I did a bit more chatting with the G-Force and I delved a little into the theory of massage. Here’s what I have discovered:
What sports massage is good for
When muscle tissue is tight or damaged blood is squeeze out like a sponge, which deprives the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair. By using the stroking movements of massage, fluid is sucked through blood vessels and lymph vessels, which in turn increases the speed of recovery of the muscle tissue. And by increasing the pressure at the front of the massage stroke, a vacuum is created behind it, which aids this fluid flow even more. Now you know!
Deep tissue repair
Deep massage, the type practised by sports massage therapists, causes the pores in tissue membranes to open up and allow fluids and nutrients to pass through more easily. This can help to remove waste products, such as that nasty lactic acid, and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients. This is what helps the muscle tissue to repair more quickly.
Massage can stretch tissues that can’t be stretched by the usual static and dynamic stretching methods. A good massage will stretch the bundles of muscle fibres both lengthwise and sideways and also stretch the sheath (or fascia) that surrounds the muscle.
This explains why the G-Force’s magical massage on my IT bands is so effective. My IT bands are always mega tight. That’s because I run and cycle, the G-Force tells me. One of his specialities is IT band massage and stretching. It hurts. A lot. But the massage really helps to loosen off this area of my tight old body. He says it will become less painful the more often I have that massage. Here’s hoping!
For scar tissue
Many of us have scar tissue. It’s the hard stuff left behind by a previous injury or trauma and can be found in muscles, tendons and ligaments. The problem with scar tissue is that it can lead to inflexible tissues that are even more prone to injury. Massage can help to break down this scar tissue and the sooner it is treated the better.
If you exercise you will already know that it increases the blood flow to your muscles and tissues. Massage stretches the muscles and helps to open up the blood vessels, which in turn allows nutrients to pass through more easily. This is all good and healthy stuff.
Better mental health
When you have a massage the feeling of improved well-being is amazing. I have been treated to a number of different massage techniques and several really surprised me. The hand, feet and face massages were unbelievably soothing. I had imagined I’d find them a bit nothing but I found myself thoroughly relaxed and feeling very soothed afterwards. Even with a sports massage, that can at times be a bit painful on sore muscles, the after-effects create feelings of utter fabulousness. It’s addictive.
The experts reckon that massage reduces anxiety by helping to relax patients. Massage is also invigorating and can therefore leave you feeling more invigorated mentally.
Faster, more efficient athletes
If your muscles are in good working order and you are free of pain and tension, the chances re you will move faster. There is nothing to inhibit you so you will run and cycle faster, or whatever your chosen sport is. All elite athletes these days employ a sports massage therapist and many amateur sports people have followed suit.
Massage before a race, whether it’s a running, cycling, swimming, walking or triathlon event, will warm up muscles. The movement of massage helps to increase blood flow to the muscles. This has been shown to warm up muscles, making them more supple and ready to go before events.
Massage also helps to prevent race injuries because muscles that are suppler and in good working order are less likely to injure and tear during exercise. You’ll get more benefit from massage than simply from stretching.
Massage will also make post race recovery faster. You can speed this along by having a post-race massage. Read everything above and imagine how it will feel to reduce those DOMs and enjoy a return to your regular exercise sessions that bit quicker.
The G-Force (aka Gordon) and his massage colleague Emma will be at the SXC Round 2 at Cathkin Braes, Glasgow, on Sunday April 13, 2014. You can pay a small fee (to cover their expenses) for pre-race and post-race massage. Why not try a sports massage to see the benefits? See Scottish Cycling SXC