Aspects of sports massage therapy are gaining popularity as useful components in a balanced training regimen. Sports massage therapy can be used as a means to enhance pre-event preparation and reduce recovery time for maximum performance during training or after an event. Athletes have discovered that specially designed sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind for optimal performance.
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Completely new to massage? Book your first appointment either well before a race—at least a few weeks out—or wait until the day after. “Just like you wouldn’t test out new socks or shoes on day of race, you shouldn’t experiment with any pre-race bodywork,” says Denunzio. Those who are familiar with massage can benefit from a pre-race rubdown in the seven to two-day window prior to an event. Getting treatment less than 48-hours prior puts all runners—even those who are massage veterans—at risk of race day soreness.
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This study is the source of a new massage myth that massage reduces inflammation. Inspired by the doubtful notion that “massage may relieve pain in injured muscle” after intense exercise, researchers looked for changes in the proteins that cells constantly make (“gene expression”). They compared muscle tissue samples with and without massage and concluded that “massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.” Massaged muscle was found to be producing different amounts of five protein related to inflammation and promoting the growth of mitochondria (cell power plants). It was an interesting, technically demanding, and worthwhile experiment, and it’s nifty that there was any difference in gene expression in massaged muscle.
The standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centers, Swedish massage is virtually synonymous with massage therapy. Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology, compared to the energy-centric style more common in Asian forms of massage. Using lotion or oil, massage therapists typically begin with broad general strokes and then transition to specific strokes to address problem areas.
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Thai Massage is a popular massage therapy that is used for management of conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Thai Massage involves a number of stretching movements that improve body flexibility, joint movement and also improve blood circulation throughout the body. In one study scientists found that Thai Massage showed comparable efficacy as the painkiller ibuprofen in reduction of joint pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.
When you think of a massage, you probably think of soothing music, a gentle brush of hands softly kneading the stress from your shoulders, maybe even of a loved one offering to rub your back after a long day at work. While some massages can be soothing, and rely on gentle touches to work out a client’s stress or anxiety, there are other massages that have a little more grit to them. For example, the Deep Tissue massage, which is very similar in style to the Swedish massage, utilizes some of the same techniques as its much gentler cousin; Deep Tissue massages, however, are designed to focus on the deeper layers of muscle tissues and fascia, the protective layer that surrounds muscles and joints. Working out these harder to reach muscles will require more pressure, making the Deep Tissue massage slightly uncomfortable, gritty and highly effective.
Deep tissue massages are often utilized following injuries to help break up newly forming scar tissue that can make recovery more difficult and lead to stiffness. Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation and muscle spasms by stimulating blood flow, loosening up muscles to allow for more oxygen and also helping reduce the nervous system’s automatic stress response.
Sometimes it really helps to know that you are not alone. There are many people who have similar issues and find comfort and help with each other. Support groups are amazing when it comes to sharing feelings with like-minded people. Find a support group nearby and attend their meetings or if that may seem a bit too much at this point, find and join a private chat group on social media.
Research shows that firmer massages with more pressure can result in a significant reduction in arthritis pain compared to lighter massages. Lighter massage tends to be arousing (not relaxing) because often the heart rate goes up. However, with moderate pressure, heart rate usually goes down, and this stimulates relaxation and reduced tension. (13)
Only the statistical significance of the results is touted in the abstract, not their size. This almost always means a real effect that was too small to emphasize. So I read the full paper and, sure enough, the effects of massage were positive but modest at best (and in many cases trivial). There were a lot of measures of success, and none changed all that much. The phrase “damned with faint praise” comes to mind, as it so often does in massage science.
The more often people check social media accounts, texts, and email, the higher their level of stress, revealed the American Psychological Association's 2017 Stress in America report. Findings from the Pew Research Center underline another negative Facebook effect: Women are particularly vulnerable to stress from social media due to being aware of lousy stuff happening to friends.
And yet some medical benefits are plausible despite the lack of evidence. For instance, many apparently successful treatments may be due to the effects of pressure on “muscle knots,” which are a likely factor in many common pain problems, but poorly understood (and difficult to treat). And regardless, the effects on mood and mental health are so profound that patients can’t really lose — it’s a valuable service whether it “works” for pain or not.
Jason DeAntonis is an award-winning Bay Area artist, known for his sumi ink illustrations, and his fine carpentry and custom furniture. He has also worked in sculpture, costume design, glass blowing, painting, printmaking, and book illustration. His work has appeared in Mindfulness in the Garden, How to Sit, How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love, and How to Relax. He lives in Berkeley, California.