Massage Therapy For Athletes: A Key Player In Sports Recovery

Written by David G Kiely
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In today’s regime of competitive sports, most athletes complain of being fatigued. If they are not recovered enough, it can eventually lead to overtraining or an injury. Generally, athletes are given only a few hours, or sometimes a few minutes of breaks, to get ready for the next game. This gives them less time to recover from the fatigue and maintain muscle functioning. Therefore, there is a need to find ways for fast recovery. For this purpose, we utilize massage therapy. In this article, we aim to find how massage therapy aids in sports recovery. 

What Is Massage Therapy?

A massage is a mechanical manipulation of soft tissues using rhythmically applied moves and pressures to alleviate pain and promote relaxation. But, in recent times, massage has gained popularity in sports due to its benefits. 

Massage Therapy For Athletes

Other than manual massages, there are various forms of massages applied in sports, such as hydro-massage, vibro-massage, acupuncture massage, rolling massage, deep tissue massage, and trigger point massage. It can be performed during, before, or after the training or event according to their needs. 

Nearly all massage therapy programs involve techniques like effleurage (sliding and circular movements), petrissage (tissue kneading and pressure), friction (pressure), and vibrations. They work by stretching tight muscles, stimulating inactive or underactive muscles, and conditioning soft body tissues. 

Benefits Of Massage Therapy In Sports And Recovery

Recent studies have revealed the positive impacts of massage therapy in sports and recovery. The major journals that supported this concept were the Journal of Athletic Training, the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, and the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. Now, many international health organizations and healthcare professionals promote massage therapy in treating athletes. Here are some of the most acknowledged benefits of massage therapy:

➔Improved performance:

Your performance in sports, let alone any activity can be disrupted by pain. Massage therapies can help reduce the pain producing toxins called lactic acid in the muscle fibers. Lowering their concentration can significantly improve your comfort and allow you to perform better. Massage therapy can also improve a few other components that can help you improve your performance, such as: 

➔Muscle flexibility:

Lack of flexibility and reflex makes the muscle fibers to stick together and create knots, limiting the range of motion. If it is left unattended, it can lead to muscle soreness or muscle tightness, restricting the muscles to perform its job. Studies show that, with regular massage, we could improve both muscle flexibility and range of motion.

➔Reduced muscle fatigue:

Muscle fatigue is common among athletes who are undergoing intense workouts or new training techniques. When our body is exposed to such situations it pushes the muscles to work harder and produce more lactic acid. An increase in lactic acid can result in decreased blood circulation and shortening of muscle tissues. However, regular massage therapy can help remove lactic acid and other toxins accumulated in the muscles, thus reducing the tension. 

➔Improved mental health:

In order to perform and survive in competitive sports, we need intense focus and concentration. But the factors like pain and stress can disturb your mental health. Massage therapy can help clear the mind, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lower cortisol levels, and relax the body. 

➔Increased blood circulation:

Massage can increase blood flow to the muscles, thus providing it the necessary nutrients and oxygen supply to perform well. Having good blood circulation eliminates toxins caused by stress and fatigue.

➔Injury prevention:

The tissues that inhibit athletic performance are also vulnerable to tears and ruptures. Massage therapy aids in injury prevention by improving flexibility, increasing blood flow, reducing muscle fatigue, and improving range of motion. These changes with massage therapies can optimize one’s biomechanics, thereby lowering the risks of sprains, strains, and overuse injuries.

➔Improved recovery time:

Massage therapy lowers muscle soreness, eliminates toxins from the muscles, promotes relaxation, and aids in tissue repair, which enables the athletes to recover faster and prepare for further events.  In addition to these, studies have proven that massage therapy combined with rehabilitation exercises has improved the recovery rates.

Final Thoughts

Massage therapy delivers benefits beyond relaxation and stress relief. It provides a holistic approach to sports and recovery by enhancing athletic performance, preventing injuries, and expediting the recovery process. Nowadays, most healthcare professionals integrate massage therapy into their treatment plans to maximize recovery and enable athletes to continue their careers with improved function and overall well-being. But before you use massage therapy for any injury or health condition, it is wise to consult a doctor or a physiotherapist to avoid complications. 

Read More: The Art Of Manual Therapy In Sports Rehabilitation – Benefits!

Dr. David G Kiely is a renowned Consultant Respiratory Physician and Director of the Sheffield Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit. His expertise lies in pulmonary circulation and Connective Tissue Disease. Dr. Kiely is a leader in respiratory medicine, known for his prolific authorship and dedication to advancing the field. As Director, he has transformed the Sheffield Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit into a hub for cutting-edge research and patient care.

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