Professional sportsmen and women have sworn by the benefits of massage therapy for years and larger sports teams usually have their own massage therapists on the payroll on a permanent basis. Until more recently it was not scientifically proven that massage therapy really helps athletes to perform better and have a general positive effect on their body and mind. A number of new studies proved massage to be seriously beneficial to athletes and not only the professional ones. Anyone who has a regular exercise practice can enjoy an abundance of benefits as massage can reduce pain, improve performance, prevent injury, aid recovery and even have a positive effect on the receiver`s state of mind.
First of all massage have a therapeutic effect on the cardiovascular system. It dilates blood vessels and so promotes circulation. The physical pressure and different strokes applied to the body encourages and improves venous blood flow as well as lymphatic circulation. All this helps to remove metabolic waste products as well as lowering your heart rate.
The improved blood flow also helps to relieve muscular tensions, reduces soreness and aids recovery. When muscles are relaxed they are more stretchy and this improves the range of motion of your joints, causing you to feel a relief of stiffness and aches. You become more flexible and supple.
A study conducted by scientists from the Buck Institute in the US showed that massage reduces inflammation, helps with pain relief as well as aiding muscle growth and recovery after exercise.
It might be surprising that massage can have other than just physical benefits. Due to the fact that massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system it promotes relaxation and helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It physically increases the production of “happy hormones” (dopamine and serotonin) by the brain, while reduces the production of stress hormones (cortisol). As a result of such relaxation focus can improve as well as general moods.
What types of massage are useful for an athlete
Generally speaking any kinds of professional massage therapy can have their positive effects.
Most sports people benefit more from some form of deep tissue massage than a gentle Aromatherapy treatment. However, they all have their benefits. A Deep Tissue or a Sports Massage treatment may not always be comfortable or even pleasant to experience. These can work on particular issues and injuries you may have, usually applying stronger pressure to muscles and deep tissues. This strong and sometimes painful approach helps to target knots and muscular tensions and is very effective way to deal with them.
These treatments can be adjusted to a purpose, such as pre-event massage – helping an athlete to prepare for heavy exercise, or post-event massage – helping the recovery of an athlete after workout.
Other, more relaxing treatments include Aromatherapy and Holistic Massages as well as Traditional Thai Yoga and others that I will not specify here.
Aromatherapy and Holistic Massage are similar to a Deep Tissue Massage in a sense that it involves the physical manipulation of muscles and tissues. However, there is less pressure applied, they are generally less specific treatments, not designed to deal with specific injuries. They do have their therapeutic effects though. Either can be effective in reducing mild aches and pains and they do activate the parasympathetic nervous system just as well as Sports or Deep Tissue Massage. They are also wonderful for stress relief, can help to overcome depression and lower moods. They also have similarly positive effects on the circulatory system, encouraging blood flow and lowering heart rate.
Traditional Thai Yoga Massage treatments are much different from the others mentioned above. This type of massage involves applied yoga. The therapist takes you through a series of yoga stretches, while also applying massage and pressure to structures of your body. It is a very relaxing and rejuvenating form of massage. It aids circulation and relaxation as well as the others above while also providing effective mobilisation and stretching.
How often to have a treatment to enjoy the full benefits of massage
The benefits of massage are cumulative. This means that although it is nice and helpful to have a treatment now and then, you can only reap the full benefits of it if you receive treatments regularly. It is generally advisable to have a massage on a weekly basis for it to give lasting relief. However, this is not always possible. You may not have the time or the budget, or even either of the two. One or two massages a month can already make a notable difference and is more affordable.
A bit more of the scientific data that explains the benefits of massage: https://thedoctorweighsin.com/massage-benefits-the-scientific-evidence/