Many elite athletes consider sports massage an essential part of their training and recovery routine. Theses athletes report that a sports massage helps them train more effectively, improve performance, prevent injury, and recovery quickly. Historically, competitive and professional athletes have been some of the biggest users of sports massage. Today, a growing number of massage therapists offer therapeutic sports massage and many recreational athletes enjoy sports massage on a regular basis.
What is Therapeutic Sports Massage?
Therapeutic sports massage is a type of massage technique that focuses on treating soft tissue aches, pain and injuries that are associated with recreational activities. Massage can reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.
While many athletes are convinced of the physical benefit of massage, research on its effectiveness is currently limited. Massage involves applying mechanical pressure to the soft tissues, and this is believed to result in improved muscle flexibility, increased range of motion in the joints, and decreased muscle stiffness.
The pressure of massage may also improve blood flow during the massage and increase muscle temperature. Massage reduces heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Most people report a feeling of pure relaxation, reduced anxiety, and improved mood as a result. Athletes may indeed find an edge in these psychological benefits.
On the other hand, very little scientific evidence supports claims that sports massage improves performance and prevents injury. A limited amount of research finds that post-exercise massage reduces the intensity of muscle soreness, but has no effect on the muscle functional loss (weakness, fatigue, decreases in strength, etc.) that often occurs after intense training or competition.
Still, for most athletes, enjoying less muscle pain and stiffness and improving sense of relaxation and well-being is reason enough to enjoy regular massage. And as research continues to study the mind/body connection, we may discover that the psychological benefits of massage do, indeed, improve our physical functioning.