Plenty of people enjoy the mental and physical relaxation that comes with a good massage. However, for athletes at all levels, massage has some surprising mental and physical benefits. Here are some of the ways that sports massage for athletes can help keep you at your best.
It Decreases Muscle Soreness
While many athletes regularly or semi-regularly enjoy a massage, not everyone understands why massage feels soothing to sore muscles. One interesting study helped illustrate why. In this study, a group of men performed a difficult workout. After the workout, one leg was massaged and the other was left alone. In a muscle tissue analysis of both massaged and not-massaged legs, researchers found that the massaged legs appeared to have switched on genes responsible for reducing inflammation.
This is likely part of the reason sports massage helps athletes manage muscle soreness–just like taking an ibuprofen or aspirin, anti-inflammatory activity in the muscle reduces pain and discomfort. Research has also indicated that massage is often effective at reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness. This type of soreness has the potential to interfere with your training schedule, and in severe cases, it can even interfere with daily activities.
It May Help Prevent Injuries
While a single massage may not make it less likely that you’ll suffer an injury, regular massages can help prevent sports injuries. In particular, massage therapy that incorporates elements of deep tissue massage can prevent injuries by increasing your range of motion. In these types of massages, adhesions, which are collagen fiber bundles that contribute to soreness and limit range of motion, are broken up. By increasing your flexibility, sports massage makes it less likely that you’ll suffer muscle and joint injuries.
Massage also helps promote relaxation, which may also play a role in injury prevention. Unintentionally holding tension in your muscles temporarily restricts your range of motion and may make it easier to pull or otherwise injure yourself while training.
It Helps Improve Mental Health
If you’re a competitive athlete, you know that state of mind means a lot going into a competition. Regularly-scheduled massage therapy can help you relieve stress and anxiety, and many athletes find massages to be invigorating. When you can quiet your mind with a massage, it will be much easier to stay focused and motivated through workouts and competitions. Some level of stress is normal when you’re competing, but when stress becomes overwhelming, it may be helpful to see if massage therapy helps.
Even if you aren’t a competitive athlete, the mental health benefits of massage for athletes can help you manage day-to-day stress. And when you’re happier and more relaxed, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy each workout a little more.
It Increases Your Energy
It might sound suspicious to state that massage improves energy levels. However, research has shown that massaged muscle tissue responds by producing more mitochondria. These organelles (tiny structures within cells) are responsible for producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the source of cellular energy.
Of course, regular exercise in itself results in the production of more mitochondria. But when you want to be able to perform either recreationally or competitively, more energy isn’t a bad thing. Energy means a lot when you’re an athlete, and massage can help you have more of it.
It Increases Blood Flow
Massage increases blood flow throughout your body, and some research has even indicated that improved blood flow lasted for days after a massage. Generally, improving circulation is a good thing regardless of your activity level, but it has several benefits that are important for athletes:
- It improves oxygen delivery to tissues–Your circulatory system is responsible for delivering oxygen to your muscles as you exercise. Having good circulation means that your muscles will take longer to fatigue.
- It boosts your immune system–Your circulatory system also carries white blood cells through the body. When it’s functioning at its best, you’ll be better equipped to fight infection.
- It speeds muscle recovery time–Proper circulation means that your muscles are getting the nutrition they need to recover and grow.
It’s More Targeted Than a Foam Roller
Most athletes have a foam roller (or use one at the gym) that they use to help eliminate soreness and muscle tension. While it may be tempting to use a foam roller because it’s easy, massage for athletes has the distinct advantage of being much more targeted. Massage therapists are highly trained and can use multiple techniques to target problem areas. Thanks to their larger size, foam rollers work best on larger muscles and make it very difficult to do targeted work on smaller areas.
Whether you’re a recreational athlete or compete at a high level, massage is a great way to help you prevent injuries and keep you performing at your best. Contact us at Qi Massage & Natural Healing Spa to book your sports massage today!