From athletics in ancient Rome to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, massage therapy has played a role in athletic performance and recovery. Whether you’re an amateur athlete or a weekend warrior, consider adding massage to help you achieve your objective. People seek massage therapy to soothe muscle spasm and strain post-workout or performance, and to speed recovery in returning to their training regimen. An added bonus, massage helps the mind perceive faster recovery from strenuous activity.
Researchers have found massage implicated in improvements of exercise capacity, performance and reducing fatigue (Monedero and Donne 2000; Ogai et al 2008; Robertson, Watt and Galloway 2004).
Delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) which ranges from stiffness to pain and restriction that impairs movement, may also benefit from massage. Although it’s not clear massage assists in lactate clearance (the metabolization of lactic acid), it may help muscles return to optimal length and tone, producing maximal force in the next training session.
Authors of a popular massage therapy textbook1 surmise that massage therapy may be most helpful pre-event for sports requiring flexibility and greater range of motion (example hurdle jump), but post-event for activities requiring maximum force (example powerlifting, sprinting) because of the effects on muscle length and tension immediately following massage therapy.
Massage has psychological benefits for the athlete too, as Hemmings and colleagues (2000) reported a perceived increased recovery in the athletes they studied.
If you’re new to exercise, want to improve your exercise capacity or athletic performance, or are experiencing stiffness and soreness after that last event, consider making regular massage therapy part of your training regimen.
Written by Don Dillon, RMT