Massage prior to and after exercise helps prevent injury, promotes recovery and can aid performance.
Whatever age you are, level of fitness or ability you have, massage can help you achieve your exercise goals.
The effect of exercise on the body
The whole of the muscular system works in unison to enable the body to cope with the stresses of exercise. For example, when running, it is not just the leg muscles that are involved. Hundreds of other muscles also work to stabilise the joints and create a pattern of rotation and spiral movements throughout the entire body. This spreads the impact and prevents the ankles, knees and hips from being put under too much stress and becoming seriously injured. However, overtraining, bad technique or having some small areas of tension before activity can lead to problems. So, if you have an issue with your shoulder, you may find running aggravates it even though you are not directly using your arms.
Many Sporting activities have a high repetitive element that can cause imbalances in muscle strength. Cycling, for example, requires many muscles working together but the repetitive pedalling means some muscles are working harder than others for long periods of time causing some to become overused, while others become weak.
Specific parts of muscles can become tight too. Muscles are made up of numerous bundles of fibres. Each bundle has a separate, specific action and therefore one small part of a larger muscle can become overused.
Overuse injury can cause micro trauma within a muscle, leading to bleeding and the formation of scar tissue. This scar tissue can stick the fibres together and restrict the function of a muscle. If left untreated, scar tissue can cause fibres within a muscle to mat together and form a small lump or knot.
How can sports or remedial massage help?
After exercise the muscles will be nutritionally depleted and there will be an accumulation of waste material and possibly some inflammation and micro trauma (see above).
A remedial or sports massage therapist can use techniques to break down this scar tissue and allow the fibres to glide smoothly again. By breaking down the adhesions it allows blood to flow more freely through the affected fibres, allowing the healing process to start taking place.
Also, a remedial massage therapist can feel small areas of micro trauma before they become a noticeable injury. Direct treatment can help at an early stage to resolve potential problems. Sometimes the massage can cause discomfort or pain and this also alerts the client to the problem, allowing them to take preventative action early. With focused activities and stretching any potential problems have a much greater chance of being avoided.
Regular massage can help identify if overuse tension is building up and therefore training or posture can be adjusted before a problem develops into a more serious issue.
Regular treatments can also help identify areas of imbalance within the muscles. Massage can stretch the fibres in the overused muscles while the weaker muscles can be identified. Corrective strengthening exercises or postural adjustments can then be implemented and, along with the therapist’s accurate advice, imbalances can be addressed.
Massage is also just a great way to relax and help keep your body in good general health.
If you have any questions or want advice please send us an email and we will be happy to help.
- http://sma.org.au/resources-advice/sports-fact-sheets/running/ – Sports Medicine Australia, 2008
- ‘The Complete Guide to Sports Massage’ 2nd Edition – Tim Paine 2011
- ‘Sports & Remedial Massage Therapy’ – Mel Cash 1996
- ‘Advanced Remedial Massage and Soft Tissue Therapy’ – Mel Cash 2012