If you’ve ever laid down on a massage table for a session, chances are you know that massages feel good. But, how exactly can it help improve your athletic performance? The magic in massage lies in its ability to move your tissue in a way that will help to restore muscle elasticity and promote recovery. The kneading, pulling, and pushing also encourages better blood flow and acts as a flushing tool to help push waste products back into circulation and out of the muscle thereby helping to alleviate muscle soreness.
There are many different types of massages from those focused more on relaxation and recovery to harder options more geared towards breaking down knots and adhesions in the muscle fibers. While both approaches have specific applications, the end goal of massage is still to improve movement through increasing flexibility and tissue quality. Dr. Mike Reinold, head physical therapist for the Boston Red Sox, adds, “As a society, we are sitting more and more each year, which is leading to more postural adaptations and areas of tightness that can be limiting your fitness gains. Massage is an excellent resource to help address these tight areas, allowing you to move better and get more from your workouts.”
Patients struggling with chronic pain have a new treatment option. Chiropractor Dr. Kirby Gengler announced that massage therapy has helped hundreds of his patients regain a full range of movement in the body, while easing chronic pain and promoting internal healing.
“Massage is one tool we use to help patients enjoy immediate back pain relief,” said Dr. Gengler. “This natural treatment helps patients by stimulating internal healing. Massaging the skin stimulates the flow of oxygenated blood, which flushes out these toxins and helps the body heal.”
“During a treatment session, important physiological changes occur inside a patient’s body,” said Dr. Gengler. “Blood pressure and heart rate decrease, helping patients to relax. At the same time, the level of cortisol — a stress hormone also associated with weight increase — drops. In its place, the levels of endorphins, a natural ‘feel-good’ hormone, increase. Patients leave our therapy sessions feeling relaxed, calm and centered. Whether a patient is coping with pain or stress, a treatment session helps the mind clear out clutter and refocus.”
According to Dr. Gengler, treatments like deep tissue massage are also important for releasing tightly-locked muscles. “After an accident injury, muscles may be strained, torn or pulled,” said Dr. Gengler. “The body may cope with this injury by shifting movement to other parts of the body. This can cause muscles to become rigid or stiff, losing flexibility. Deep muscle massage unlocks pain trapped deep inside the fascia, providing relief for chronic back pain and other injuries.”
by Thrive Chiropractic
Why get a massage? Well, because it feels good, for one thing. But many people also hop on the table with the hope that massage therapy can help promote muscle recovery after a tough workout or provide other benefits.
No one has looked closely at what massage does to muscle at a cellular or molecular level, however. Researchers set out to do just that, and their findings are published in Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers exercised 11 young men to exhaustion over about 70 minutes, then massaged a single leg (determined randomly for each man) for ten minutes. The subjects received a muscle biopsy in both quad muscles to gather samples for massaged and non-massaged legs. The biopsy was repeated after a 2.5-hour rest period.
Researchers analyzed the samples from the different legs to see what was going on after the massage. They found two major changes: reduced signs of inflammation, and an increase in production of mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories.
Curbed production of inflammatory molecules “may reduce pain by the same mechanism as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs” like aspirin and ibuprofen, the authors write.
The authors say that an increase in the number of mitochondria can promote better recovery after a tough exercise session. That finding also means that massage after exercise could help enhance endurance, says Mark Tarnopolsky, an author of the study and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ont. Nailing down that link would require further research, says Tarnopolsky.