How Effective Is Sports Massage for Athletic Performance?
Looking to perform better at your sport and stay injury-free? Want to recover faster from training and ward off muscle fatigue? If so, sports massage can help! From weekend warriors to elite athletes and fitness pros, everyone is talking about its benefits! When done right, sports massage can boost your physical performance, speed up muscle repair, and help you recover from injuries. This therapy is a staple in any athlete’s routine. Let’s see how it works and what makes it so great!
What Is Sports Massage?
This type of massage is designed for active individuals and athletes. It aims to prevent and treat injuries, relieve muscle soreness, and ease pain. In the long run, it can help you reach peak athletic performance and keep your body functioning optimally. Despite its name, this massage style isn’t just for athletes. Anyone can reap its benefits.
Sports massage has physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It not only supports muscle repair and decreases injury risk but also improves circulation and wards off stress. It’s a great way to relieve mental tension and relax after a hard workout. A good massage can restore mobility to injured muscle tissue and reduce fatigue. This allows you to work out harder and more efficiently.
The purpose of sports massage is to decrease muscle tension and swelling caused by exercise. It plays a key role in post-training recovery and can accelerate healing from musculoskeletal injuries. This form of therapy can be used in rehab, as a tool to enhance physical performance, or as a stress relief aid.
In general, sports massage is performed by remedial massage therapists and other healthcare practitioners. Its beneficial effects are well-documented. In a study conducted on 16 subjects, those who received 30 minutes of massage reported improved cycling performance in a standard anaerobic cycling test following the treatment. Other studies have found that sports massage regulates mood and helps reduce mental tension.
The Benefits of Sports Massage
This style of massage brings fresh, oxygenated blood to the muscles and other tissues. The therapist can use a variety of techniques according to your needs. For instance, the massage techniques used for treating strains, pulled muscles, and tears are different than those used for relaxation. The stroking movements utilised in this therapy stimulate lymph flow and reduce lactic acid buildup. They also help remove metabolic waste while increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to your tissues. This allows your body to recover faster from training and perform at its peak.
Most strokes used in sports massage are similar to those utilised in therapeutic massage. What differentiates the two is the goal. Sports massage aims to improve exercise performance and muscle function. Therapeutic massage emphasizes stress relief and well-being. During a sports massage session, the therapist focuses on the muscles and tissues that are overused and stressed.
This practice is widely used in pre-event preparation, injury rehab, and post-workout recovery. Most athletes experience increased flexibility and range of motion, greater endurance, and reduced muscle pain after a massage. Research indicates that even a 30-second session can improve hip-flexor range of motion. This therapy emphasizes healing and prevention of injuries, leading to faster recovery. It’s an excellent choice for athletes as well as for people with limited mobility, chronic pain, or injury. Its health benefits include:
- Pain relief
- Reduced recovery time
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved mobility and flexibility
- Muscular relaxation
- Improved blood flow
- Reduced inflammation
- Enhanced sports performance
- Improved mood
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Stronger immune function
- Lower injury risk
- Scar tissue breakdown
- Better sleep
- Improved tissue elasticity
Sports massage helps break down scar tissue and promote the formation of new healthy tissues. It also stretches and strengthens your muscles, dilates the blood vessels, and invigorates the body. Additionally, this form of therapy increases endorphin levels in the brain, which helps lift your mood and reduces pain. Endorphins promote mental and physical well-being, decrease anxiety, and lower stress levels. These factors combined lead to enhanced sports performance.
A lesser known benefit of sports massage lies in its ability to increase tissue permeability. This allows nutrients and fluid to pass through your tissues more easily. Studies have also found that sports massage may reduce breathing pattern disorders, lower serum creatine kinase post exercise, and decrease DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). For example, if it takes you too long to recover from training, get a massage! Your muscles will recover faster and function more efficiently.
This massage style is good for your brain too. After just one session, you’ll feel more relaxed and invigorated. Competitive sports don’t rely solely on physical strength. They also require mental focus and concentration. If you’re stressed or tired, you may not be able to perform at your best. Sports massage can help de-clutter your mind and relieve stress, leading to improved focus. This therapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your mind and body. It also keeps the stress hormone cortisol levels low while increasing serotonin and dopamine levels.
When to Book a Massage Session?
Depending on your sport and individual needs, get at least one massage per week. Think of it as a preventive measure. Ideally, book a massage session on your toughest training day. In case you can’t afford weekly or bi-weekly sessions, do it at least twice a month. This therapy is safe and has no side effects. However, it may not be the best option for those with bleeding disorders, recent surgery, broken bones, acute tendon ruptures, cuts, burns, or open wounds.
An experienced therapist should be able to tell if you’re a good candidate for sports massage. Make sure you choose one who is licensed and has experience with the kind of problems you’re facing. For instance, a beginner may lack the skills needed to work with elite athletes.
A typical session lasts for about 30-60 minutes. In some cases, the massage therapist may also recommend stretching and other exercises that can be done at home. They should also be able to tell you how to stay safe and prevent injuries.
Have you ever tried a sports massage? How did it make you feel?