Sports Massage has been a therapeutic modality across the world in a number of sporting environments. The known benefits of massage for chronic pain, clinical and sporting conditions include stretching of tendons and connective tissue and relief of muscular tension, adhesions and spasm. Massage is also associated with enhanced muscular recovery from intense exercise, such as Delayed-onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS), principally because it increases blood flow to the area palpated. Rather than using sports massage solely for the treatment of specific musculoskeletal problems, it also has benefits more generally for performance, such as preparation for competition, between competitions and assisting in recovery.
The general benefits of sports massage can be broken down biomechanically, physiologically, neurologically and psychologically.
Biomechanically, massage decreases tissue adhesions, it increases muscle compliance, range of motion and also decreases passive stiffness and active stiffness. Physiologically, massage increases blood flow, improves circulation in the skin and improves parasympathetic activity.
Neurologically it decreases pain through changing the neuromuscular excitability as well as decreasing muscle tension & spasm. Finally, the psychological effects is through increasing the relationship between the body and mind, increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety.
Focusing more on performance, recovery and injury prevention, sports massage is being more & more commonly considered by many health professionals. It can help enhance performance factors such as healthy muscle and connective tissues; if the athlete had dysfunctional muscle and connective tissue their range of motion would be restricted and more importantly, performance would be hindered, so, preventative massage is recommended to help athletes prepare both physically and mentally. Pre and Post event massage is commonly used for professional athletes to help overcome fatigue and promote recovery. Massage increases muscle blood flow and increases the delivery of oxygen to the muscles which in turn, aids in the removal of waste products, such as lactic acid. It also enhances the delivery of protein and other nutrients needed for muscle repair.
Delayed onset muscle soreness can be one of the most frustrating side effects of exercise and it frequently occurs 1-2 days after heavy eccentric loading. DOMS consists of mechanical stress on muscle fibers, causing sarcomeres to rupture followed by calcium homeostasis disturbance. This can cause chronic pain, weaken muscle function and decrease the ability to perform. Massage is one of the treatments regularly used to ease DOMS. Sports massage improves biomechanical function through applying pressure on the muscle tissue to decrease adhesions.
The Neurological benefits of sports massage are facilitated through the pain-gate theory as well as realignment of muscle fibers. Massage commonly breaks down muscle spasm, which consequently causes muscle pain through stimulating pain receptors or by compressing the blood vessels resulting in ischemic pressure. The realignment of muscle fibers helps to reduce the pressure on blood vessels, and allows increased blood nutrition to the damaged area.
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