5 Benefits of Massage Therapy for Athletes

Both professional athletes and coaches have long known the benefits of massage therapy. That is why massage therapists are a regular feature of several international sports teams today. In fact, they are also a part of regular training schedules and help athletes recover from rigorous training exercises.

In up to a few years back there was no conclusive evidence to support the theory that massage therapy was useful for improved performance in athletes. However, with increase in funds allotted to research on massage therapy, it has been shown that there are several benefits associated with regular massage therapy especially for athletes.

The American massage therapy Association says that massage is essential in improving performance, preventing injury, reduction of pain, and helps to improve focus and reduce recovery times from injuries.

Some of the direct ways in which massage therapy can help athletes is by improving the cardiovascular system, reducing stress, improving joint flexibility, enabling it leads to recover faster from training and injuries, and improving their ability to  avoid injuries.

1.    It Relaxes The Muscular System:

Relaxation of the muscular system is extremely essential for athletes who are subject to rigorous training and stress regularly. It becomes all the more essential when you consider the fact that sore muscles are inflexible and affect performance significantly. The muscles are in the form of fibers which are bundled together. Each muscle group consists of these bunches or bundles of fibers which, when put under stress, get knotted up with each other which causes there length to reduce and results in the muscle coming stiff and thus, causes discomfort and sometimes even severe pain. This automatically hampers the performance of the athlete and prevents optimal performance.

When the muscles are tense they are incapable of holding much fluid and neither do they allow fluid to pass through them. This prevents proper circulation of blood in these areas. This worsens the situation further by preventing nutrients and oxygen from reaching these muscles. In such cases, massage therapy helps by stretching and loosening the tense muscles and the connective tissue that is attached to them. This also results in the opening of the passages and allows the blood to flow through, which results in the supply of nutrients and oxygen being re-established at the sites. This essentially speed up the healing process and reduces soreness, fatigue and weakness associated with a tense muscular system.

2.    It Reduces Chronic Pain:

Athletes deal with chronic pain caused due to various cause on a regular basis. Pain is essentially transmitted through the body through the connective network of fibers of the nervous system, which are required in the transmission of impulses from the site of injury to the brain and back.

This pain causes a lot of stress which in turn affects the sleep patterns and the ability of the body to recover from injuries.

Massage therapy has the capacity to provide relief in such situations. While undergoing massage therapy the body releases a group of hormones which are known as endorphins. These endorphins are responsible for inhibiting the functioning of pain receptors and result in the reduction of the intensity of pain. In conjunction with the other healing benefits of massage therapy, the action of endorphins helps to not only reduce pain, but also reduce overall stress which results in more rest for the athlete, which eventually speeds up the healing process. All this without having to resort to painkillers which are notorious for being addictive and known to cause renal failure, cardio- vascular issues and several other disorders.

3.    It Reduces The Impact Of Repetitive Stress Injuries:

Athletes are highly prone to repetitive stress injuries. Repetitive stress injuries are those injuries which occur when a similar type of motion is repeated continuously over long periods of time, sometimes spanning years. Some examples of repeated of stress injuries are carpal tunnel syndrome which is observed in people who spend a lot of time typing. This is caused due to the nerves of the wrist getting pinched while maintaining the unnatural position required while typing.

Another example is bus drivers who drive buses with automatic doors which require them to pull the lever which opens the door several times in a day. This causes them to suffer from severe and debilitating shoulder pain which is highly painful.

Almost every sport requires some kind of motion which exposes athletes to the dangers of repetitive stress injuries like tennis elbow, shin splints, tendonitis, bursitis etc.

Massage therapy can play a vital role in reducing the tension in these areas and increases the flexibility of the ligaments and joints involved. It also provides the injured area with a constant stream of nutrients which help in recovery and healing. Massage therapy also plays a major role in keeping muscles, joints and ligaments strong by avoiding such injuries.

4.    It Promotes Rehabilitation:

Rehabilitation can be a major issue when athletes have been injured either in the field or due to an accident. Several times, even minor injuries can severely dent an athlete’s performance. Regular massage can help injuries to heal faster and reduce the discomfort which is common during the process of rehabilitation. Certain techniques like the soft tissue technique which several therapist employ are extremely efficient in healing acute and chronic injuries alike. Another technique what is the trigger point technique is very useful in reducing pain and spasms which are a regular feature of injured muscles.

5.    Improve Posture And Form:

pexels-photo-248139When the body is subject to high amounts of physical stress, it is very natural for it to try to reduce stress in the affected area by slightly modifying the posture to distribute the strain to nearby areas.
This gradually results in unnatural and bad posture becoming a habit.
This can cause several problems like bent spine, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain and several other issues which can affect an athlete’s performance in the long run. Not to mention the increased vulnerability to injuries which are a result of bad posture.
Massage therapy can help alleviate such issues by straightening the spine, relieving stress on the neck and relaxing the core muscles so that the stress is reduced and the posture gets back to normal.

Conclusion:

Essentially, it is evident that massage therapy who is a lot of promise in improving the performance of athletes. Not only this, it also plays a major role in preventing injuries, reducing stress and improving overall well-being of an athlete.

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/massage/massageintroduction.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748404

https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/060214

 

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