Last week I treated myself to a massage, something I rarely do.
All my aches and pains disappeared and my body felt better than it has in a long time and it reminded me of the benefits massage can provide, especially for the physically active.
– Lifestyler with Josie McKenlay: Yoga postures for your health
Athletes, sportsmen and the weekend warrior can all reap positive rewards from a regular deep tissue massage. Here are my top five benefits:
► 1. Flexibility: This is something most sports people lack. Overused muscles tend to become short and tight, creating muscle imbalances which eventually lead to injuries. The effects of this tension in the muscles may include disturbances of collagen scar tissue and development of various adhesions where the muscle, fascia and other tissues stubbornly stick together.
Massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched via the usual methods. Bundles of muscle fibres are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways during a massage. Massage can also stretch the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up. Apart from preventing injury, a good level of flexibility can improve performance, so it’s worth stretching those muscles after exercise and sport and what better way than with a massage to get to those parts other stretches cannot reach?
► 2. Recovery: During intense physical activity, tiny tears occur in muscles and fascia. The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood and lymph vessels. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
So massage improves blood circulation which means that nutrients and oxygen are carried more efficiently to the injured areas to help them heal and recover quickly. Tight muscle will restrict blood flow, so by releasing and relaxing the muscles, blood may flow freely. Waste products such as lactic acid will also be removed as the lymphatic system get a boost.
► 3. Pain relief: Obviously, the source of severe pain needs to be investigated and dealt with, but the pain of sore, overworked muscles can be greatly relieved with a good massage. Sore, tired, overworked muscles will have a negative impact on performance for the athlete, so it is important that pain is dealt with and alleviated. This may mean rest and other forms of treatment too, but for most, a massage will help greatly. The common DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) many of us experience after an intense training session can be reduced during massage.
► 4. Relaxation: Sports people need to be competitive and relaxation does not tend to come easily to them! Massage promotes relaxation and reduces stress which will remove tension from both the body and the mind.
► 5. Sleep: As massage reduces discomfort and promotes relaxation, sleep will come more easily. Both quantity and quality will be improved. Our bodies recover and repair during sleep, but we perform much better if we feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep.