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If you’re feeling beat up from your last workout, or looking for something that will improve your recovery, a sports massage is the answer.
If you’ve ever had a Swedish massage or pampering treatments at a spa, you’ll know that it’s a very relaxing, pleasurable experience. A sports massage though is a whole different ball game.
A sports massage goes a lot deeper than your traditional relaxation massage, and can certainly be fairly uncomfortable, as the therapist works to get all the aches, pains, twinges and adhesions out of your muscles. But in the end, that pain is worth it, as sports massages have a host of benefits.
The main benefit of a sports massage is that it reduces muscle tension, much like a Swedish massage does though. While your Swedish massage might be suitable for the average non exercising office worker though, if you’re training hard and pushing your body to its limits, this simply won’t be enough. After a tough training session, you’ll nearly always be sore, and this soreness is caused in large part to tightness in the muscles. While tight muscles aren’t an issue in themselves, they can lead to complications down the line if they’re not addressed.
Read more: Top Five Post Workout Meals
Think of your muscles like an elastic band – the tighter they are, the more prone they are to snapping. Excessively tight muscles, when left untreated over a period of time are far more likely to suffer tweaks and twinges, even if you don’t experience a full rupture or tear.
You might think that you can stretch to reduce muscle tightness, but this isn’t enough. The effects of stretching are fairly short term, meaning that within a few hours, your muscles have seized up again. Stretching doesn’t get deep enough either. A skilled sports massage therapist can get deep into the muscle tissue, and not only relieve tightness, but break up trigger points and adhesions. These are knots in the tissue that cause tightness, and that no amount of stretching will remedy.
A further benefits of sports massage is its effect on the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
Your circulatory system pushes blood around the body, and having a sports massage stimulates this to get the blood flowing faster. Blood contains essential components for recovery – oxygen, nutrients, and red and white blood cells. By getting more of these to the muscle tissue, damaged fibers can be repaired quicker, and your soreness will go sooner.
The lymphatic system pushes a fluid called lymph around the body. When this becomes congested or slows down, it can lead to swellings around the joints known as edemas. Just like with the circulatory system, massage speeds up the lymph system, and reduces swelling and inflammation.
Linked in with reducing tension, massage can improve your flexibility and mobility too. This is absolutely vital for avoiding injuries and improving performance. Many athletes find that they need a certain degree of flexibility to perform particular movements in their sport, and even regular gym goers can find that restricted mobility can stop them from performing various exercises. Massage is better than stretching for this for one particular reason:
- Go back to the muscle/ elastic band analogy. If you stretch an elastic band over and over again, it does become more stretchy, but it also gets weaker, making it more likely to snap. Massage though, increases flexibility without decreasing strength, by breaking down knots, rather than stressing and pulling the fibers.
- Massage is clearly extremely beneficial, whether you’re an elite athlete, a hardcore gym trainee, or just looking to maintain your general health and fitness. But when should you get a sports massage, and what should you be looking for when you decide to go ahead?
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