Each time we exercise we hope we are stressing our muscles enough to cause a change. That change doesn’t come without a price though. Muscle stiffness, soreness, micro-trauma, inflammation, joint disorders, all start to take their toll on our bodies. Massage can be the solution to both the physical and mental strain we endure for our healthy lifestyles and it can help with all of the following:
Reduced muscle tension 1, 2, 3
Reduced muscle hyper-tonicity 1, 3
Increased range of motion 1, 2, 3, 4
Improved soft tissue function 1, 2
Decreased muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise 2, 3, 5
Improved exercise performance 2, 3, 5, 6
Decreased delayed onset muscle soreness 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Reduced swelling/edema 2, 10
[Scroll to the bottom for references]
The benefits seen above only scratch the surface as research attempts to prove the validity of the claims the massage industry has made for years. The benefits that I hope will stick with you are related to helping you function better and prevent future injuries. The main concern sports therapists and structural bodyworkers have is to help the body realign itself so the musculature can work better as a team in supporting our bodies against gravity. As the body shifts out of alignment the joints are stressed in a different way than they were intended for and muscles are recruited for motions they weren’t designed for. Often we think that stretching or foam rolling will help us achieve the muscular balance we need, but only if you know what muscle(s) or fascial sheets are the exact cause.
One of the best examples I can think of relates to shoulder imbalances. Many posts in forums will talk about how someone can’t get into the front rack position, or maybe they have shoulder pain during bench press. These can be complicated issues that a general stretching or foam rolling program won’t work for. A qualified massage therapist can assess which muscles are tight because they are short (concentrically loaded), and which muscles are tight because they are locked long (eccentrically loaded). An example of this would be in a person who has the sloucher’s posture from working at a desk all day. Their Pectoralis Minor and the lower head of their Trapezius is tight. Which one do we want to lengthen and which one do we want to strengthen? Your massage therapist has the tools to read posture and determine those types of patterns. They could then give personalized exercises, stretches, and muscles to roll out that will fit their exact need, not the general population’s.
There are many types of massage that can assist you in your training, some to consider are:
Deep Tissue – lengthens short muscles, helps restore blood flow to restricted areas, and relieves pain.
Trigger Point Therapy – Those fun knots/tender points that cause random pain in other parts of your body. “Where you think the problem is, it ain’t” – Ida Rolf
Structural Integration/Rolfing – Alignment therapies. That dropped arch in your foot might be what causing your neck pain.
Thai Massage – The lazy man’s yoga. All the benefits of yoga, without having to do the work!
1- Brukner, P., and Khan, K., with colleagues. (2009). Clinical Sports Medicine. Sydney, Australia: The McGraw-Hill Companies.
2- Fritz, S. (2005). Sports & Exercise Massage: Comprehensive Care in Athletics, Fitness, & Rehabilitation. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby9
3- Archer, P. (2007). Therapeutic Massage in Athletics. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
4- Crosman, L.J., Chateauvert, S.R., Weisberg, J. (1984). The effects of massage to the hamstring muscle group on range of motion. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 6(3):168-72
5- Ogai, R., Yamane, M., Matsumoto, T. Kosaka, M. (2008). Effects of petrissage massage on fatigue and exercise performance following intensive cycle pedaling. BR J Sports Med, 42(10):834-8
6- Brooks, C.P., Woodruff, L.D., Wright, L.L., Donatelli, R. (2005). The immediate effects of manual massage on power-grip performance after maximal exercise in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med, 11(6):1093-101
7- Farr, T., Nottle, C., Nosaka, K., Sacco, P. (2002). The effects of therapeutic massage on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle function following downhill walking. J Sci Med Sport, 5(4):297-306.
8- Hilbert, J.E., Sforzo, G.A., Swensen, T. (2003). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. Br J Sports Med, 37(1):72-5.
9- Smith, L.L., Keating, M.N., Holbert, D., Spratt, D.J., McCammon, M.R., Smith, S.S., Israel, R.G. (1994). The effects of athletic massage on delayed onset muscle soreness, creatine kinase, and neutrophil count: a preliminary report. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 19(2):93-9.
10- Bakowski, P., Musielak, B., Sip, P., Bieganski, G. (2008). Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Chir Narzadow Ruchu Ortop Pol, 73(4):261-5.
11- Frey Law, L.A., Evans, S., Knudtson, J., Nus, S., Scholl, K., Sluka, K.A. (2008). Massage reduces pain perception and hyperalgesia in experimental muscle pain: a randomized, controlled trial. J Pain, 9(8):714-21.
12- Zainuddin, Z., Newton, M., Sacco, P., Nosaka, K. (2005). Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. J Athl Train, 40(3): 174–180.