How to enhance recovery and improve performance with Massage Therapy
Like hydrotherapy and other forms of physical therapy, the use of massage therapy dates back thousands of years to Egypt, Greece and Japan. Massage therapy is essentially the manual manipulation of the soft body tissues including muscles, tendons and ligaments with the goal of enhancing a person’s wellbeing, reducing pain, aiding recovery, reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and improving athletic performance. Massage Therapy has dozens of modalities and methods including:
- Swedish massage – Where a therapist will utilise a range of movements such as long strokes, kneading, vibration, and tapping
- Sports massage – adapted to the needs of athletes, sports massage combines techniques of Swedish massage and deep tissue massage to release chronic muscle tension
- Myofascial release – focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in ‘trigger points’ commonly manifesting as ‘knots’ in the back or sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues
Much has changed in the thousands of years that massage therapy has been practiced, with many studies having been conducted on how best to amalgamate and utilise the different techniques and how they can be applied to the average person, as well as professional athletes, strength trainers and bodybuilders alike. Your Lane Cove Physio, being an expert in musculoskeletal injuries, rehabilitation and massage therapy together, is the perfect person to provide a range of treatments designed for your specific circumstances.
What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?
Whilst treatment strategies for DOMS and its exact impact on athletic performance have been studied and debated for years, comparatively little is known about it compared to other aspects of athletic performance and the body. Chances are though, whether you are a professional athlete or a casual gym goer, you have been acquainted with DOMS at some point in time. DOMS can range from causing mild stiffness and muscle soreness, to quite severe muscular and joint pain. It often peaks at around 24-48 hours after strenuous activity and can last up until about 72 hours post-workout, but it has been known to hang around for up to five days in some cases. If your “DOMS” has not subsided after 5 days or is accompanied by particularly dark urine, it could be signs of a more serious condition called rhabdomyolysis, and physiotherapists recommend getting seeking advice from your GP and having further tests completed.
How does Massage Therapy reduce recovery time and increase athletic performance?
The physical effects of massage therapy have been shown to improve weightlifter’s, professional athlete’s and regular people’s health and lifestyle by reducing pain, improving further performance and decreasing the potential for injury in several ways. The effect of sports massage and remedial massage therapy is to increase the health of the body’s internal tissues by improving circulation of blood and nutrients, while simultaneously removing toxins. This can be accomplished by utilising a variety of different strokes and mechanisms:
- Reducing pain and fatigue
Recent studies have shown that athletes who received a 20-30 minute massage immediately following or up to two hours post exercise had a decreased instance and duration of DOMS compared to those who didn’t. Remedial and sports massages delivered by a musculoskeletal physiotherapist also result in lower perceived fatigue partially due to the reduction in circulating cortisol and increase of serotonin that also occurs after a remedial massage.
- Improving flexibility
Studies have shown that sports massage can have a significant positive effect in increasing range of motion (ROM) after joint injuries and exertion. Because high intensity/high volume training cycles and competition lifting commonly lead to increased muscle tension, sports massages are designed to promote and maintain flexibility by stretching the muscle fibres through techniques such as:
- Effleurage – rubbing of the skin lightly from the distal site to the proximal site using the extremities, to promote muscle relaxation by facilitating the flow of the lymph nodes
- Petrissage – Increases the movability of the muscle by twisting the area between the muscle and the skin after holding the soft tissue
- Friction – pressing the skin soft tissue deeply using a thumb, by putting it on the bone or on the fascia of the muscle
- Improving sleep
Quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of physical recovery due to athletic activities. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce aches and pains along with promoting better sleeping patterns and reducing sleep disturbances. With a better and deeper sleep, everyone from the casual gym user to the professional lifter will be better able to perform at their best. Professional lifters will have difficulty getting to sleep and may often wake during the night if they go to bed in a high tension state, compromising recovery. A remedial or sports massage will reduce some of that tension and promote deeper and longer sleep.
Your physiotherapist is the best person to speak to regarding remedial and sports massages as they have the most in depth musculoskeletal and injury knowledge. If you are suffering from a case of the dreaded DOMS, don’t hesitate to make a booking with your physio and feel the effects of a remedial massage for yourself.
 Massage Therapy for Acute and Chronic care of Low Back Pain, David Lang LMT #1442, RMTI, MTPT
Staff Therapist at University of New Mexico/Center for Life
 Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors, Karoline Cheung, Hume and Maxwell. School of Community Health and Sports Studies, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
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