We’ve mentioned that recent studies and media have demonstrated the healing effects of massage on muscle tissue. This is great news for people suffering from injuries and chronic pain. We know that massaging muscles helps to reduce inflammation, sparing people from the necessity to reach for anti-inflammatory drugs.
But it gets better- massage not only reduces inflammation, it also helps to facilitate the healing and restoration of muscle tissue. This is particularly useful when we think about the importance of tissue repair in sport and exercise. Athletes typically want to avoid drugs and allow for their muscles to heal and adapt naturally. When exercising hard however, they sustain multiple and repeated tears in their muscle tissue. These tears are responsible for post-exercise stiffness and pain which in turn can affect performance or delay successive workouts.
One of the ways athletes seek to avoid and fix muscle soreness is to increase their protein intake. Protein is known to build and repair body tissues. Good news: According to a study of cyclists’ mentioned in Men’s Health, we now know that massage therapy aids in stimulating muscles to produce these important proteins naturally, speeding recovery. In the study, massage reduced muscle inflammation in athletes who had just finished cycling to exhaustion. The dual action of reducing inflammation and promoting healing makes massage a significant and useful therapy for athletic recovery and optimizing performance.
So when should athletes aim to get a massage? Right after a workout is best. As the article points out however, this might not be realistic or economically feasible for many athletes. Still, regular massage therapy can be beneficial for anyone training for an event, or exercising actively on a team or as part of a personal fitness regime. Athletes need not wait for a big-ticket muscle injury to seek massage therapy. Muscle tears are a normal part of exercise- therefore massage therapy can improve post-workout muscle condition in a healthy, everyday athlete.
If you’re serious about sport and exercise –whether competitive or recreational- you have an arsenal of tools to help you achieve your goal, whether it’s speed, strength or weight loss. Along with recovery drinks, electrolytes and protein powders, consider massage therapy as a useful and proven tool for optimizing athletic performance.