For anyone who participates in regular physical activity, massage therapy is an excellent addition to one’s regimen. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, “individuals who participate in exercise and athletic programs who seek enhanced performance, improved conditioning, faster recovery, injury prevention, and assistance in maintaining peek fitness can benefit from massage therapy”. Let’s look at the ways in which massage aids these goals.
Massage therapy increases blood flow. Blood is what carries oxygen and other vital nutrients acquired from eating a healthy diet to the muscles.When muscles become too constricted, they are not able to receive proper nourishment from the blood, and are therefore not able to function or heal properly. Massage helps bring blood to the entire body.
Improves Range of Motion and Flexibility
Working out, by nature, increases muscle tension, forming adhesions (knots) that cause muscles, facia, and other tissues to stick together. This can lead to reduced flexibility and range of motion, meaning your body is not able to move properly, increasing the chance of an injury. Massage manually manipulates and stretches muscles, promoting and maintaining their elasticity and flexibility.
Reduces Inflammation, Decreases Pain, Helps Build Muscle
Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers. As the body gets to work repairing the tissues, inflammation occurs. According to a study by The Buck Institute for Research on Aging, massage reduces cytokines, which cause inflammation in the body. The study also found that massage stimulates “mitochondrial biogenesis”, or the production of mitochondria. These are tiny “powerhouses” located inside cells that convert glucose into energy necessary for cell function and muscle repair. In other words, massage not only facilitates similar pain relief as taking an NSAID (i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen), it is actually good for your muscles in a way that anti-inflammatory drugs are not.
Promotes Relaxation, Improves Sleep
Athletic performance, whether competing in a race, playing a sport, or participating in a group exercise class, is about more than just physical strength. Being able to have mental focus and clarity can help elevate performance and improve results while training. Massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, causing serotonin and dopamine levels go up and cortisol levels to go down. The leveling out of these chemicals leads to a deeper sleep, which is when your body is able to repair and heal its own tissues.
In conclusion, whether you are a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or just embarking on your road to fitness, massage therapy is one tool you can add to your exercise routine to help you train longer and harder, recover more quickly, and get the most out of each workout.
Article By: Spa Ridge Massage Therapist, Shelby Whitmore