Why sports massages are essential for athletes

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From the latest protein bars to purchasing state-of-the-art shoes, athletes are always trying to find new ways provide their bodies with advantages. But the real edge for helping maintain and preserve your body is through the athletic recovery process after a strenuous workout. Receiving a massage has long been researched and noted as an efficient means for not only treating sore muscles or injuries, but also for potentially enhancing performance and endurance as well. For athletes who have yet to experience the wide variety of alleviation benefits experienced through a sports massage, here’s just some of the advantages you might be missing out on:

Athletic recovery

All athletes should have their own workout recovery strategy, which can range from post-exercise nutrition to getting eight hours of sleep every night. While these tips and strategies are great for focusing on a specific element to recovery, a sports massage covers plenty of ground for aiding athletes who are recuperating after a long session at the gym. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, sports massages can help support recovery for everything from your cardiovascular activity to eliminating onsets of delayed muscle soreness.

A massage therapist is able to manipulate specific muscles and soft tissues that in turn can release chemicals throughout the body that will enhance the relaxation response. Researchers from the University of Minnesota also point out that another way massages can help athletes during their recovery process is through improving blood and lymph circulation. This is a way for the body to boost the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells, which results in an overall speedier recovery.

Flexibility

Whether you’re a master of the backstroke in the pool or you always put on a dribbling clinic on the basketball court, flexibility is the blueprint for maximizing athletic ability. The American Massage Therapy Association lists increased range of motion as one of the proven results athletes can experience through routine massage therapy sessions. If you’re constantly putting your muscles through a tough workout, you’re slowly diminishing your muscles’ ability to relax. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, this can create chronically tightened muscles, which may result in overall loss of flexibility. When your overall range of motion begins to decrease, muscles soreness begins to arrive more frequently. The more massages you’re receiving, the more you can retain and even improve upon flexibility, helping you better reach your athletic potential.

Avoiding injury

One of the inevitable consequences of repeatedly working out or playing sports is experiencing an injury. Massage therapy is not only a great way to help athletes avoid having an injury, but may also treat various pains and strains your body is going through. The Mayo Clinic lists treating sports injuries as one of the primary benefits of receiving a massage, and is also commonly prescribed as a source of rehabilitation for athletes going through different types of impairment. Whether you’re trying to combat severe muscle pain or looking to reduce swelling occurring in an injury, a sports massage may be just what the doctor ordered for your body.

Psychological effects

While strength, speed and stamina are all crucial factors that make athletes who they are, the mental dynamic to playing sports can be almost just as essential. Whether you’re trying to relax while shooting a game-winning free throw or you can’t fall asleep the night before a big race, sports massages have long been hailed for the ability to benefit the mind. Even the American Psychological Association has recommended receiving a massage for anyone looking to help calm down and relieve episodes of anxiety or stress.

Dr. Tiffany Field, a researcher at the University of Miami Touch Research Institute, even suggests that providing yourself with a self massage or using a personal massager can serve as a means for achieving heightened relaxation, which is what can lead to decreased pain and soreness within the muscles.

“People often don’t realize how easy it is to give themselves a massage,” Field told the American Psychological Association. “Say, for example, you hit your funny bone and you rub it. The pain message is transmitted more slowly than the pressure message, so it gets turned off and you stop experiencing pain. Most people don’t know that. They might do light stroking, but that doesn’t help and really is aversive to most people.”

Anxiety is one of the more overlooked factors that can negatively affect sports performance. Researchers from the Southernhay Clinic Exeter in the United Kingdom state that episodes of anxiety can impact athletes in a variety of ways, ranging from feeling like you’re going to choke on the court to losing the ability to throw a dart at the board. Athletes looking for ways to decrease anxiety should always consider experiencing the advantages of receiving a sports massage.

Jill Lohmann is a Director of Operations for Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers and a certified physical therapist. Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers is a physical therapist owned and operated rehabilitation company with a network of 170 outpatient rehabilitation centers located throughout the Midwest, Arizona and Georgia.

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