By Darcy Lynch, MS LCMT CPT CYT
Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapist
If you are involved in an intense exercise training program or play a competitive sports where muscles are being continually shortened and fatigued, micro-tears occur not only in the muscles, but the ligaments, and tendons as well.
An effective massage maintenance program is based on a massage therapist's understanding of anatomy,and kinesiology (movement of muscles), combined with an in-depth knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which ones are likely candidates for stress and injury. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, massage helps an athlete maintain or improve their range of motion and muscle flexibility. Maintenance massage should be performed one to two times weekly where the main objectives is to help an athlete reach optimal performance, and reduce risk of injury.
Incorporating massage into an exercise training regime improves circulation, increases muscle tone, flexibility, and range of motion, separates and normalizes muscles and connective tissue, increases mental alertness and clarity, facilitates recovery from injuries, reduces pain, and provides emotional stimulation.
In addition to massage, any training program requires an athlete to be responsible for their own self-care including proper warm-up and stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Proper stretching has been shown to increase muscular strength by 20%, and also dramatically reduces the chance of injury.
Athletes have many injury sites in common, including the wrists, back, hands, elbows, shoulders, knees, and hamstrings. A massage session focuses on these areas to help reduce inflammation, flush out metabolic waste, break up muscle adhesions, deactivate trigger points, and increase fluidity of movement. A good sports massage therapist can also identify potential trouble spots long before they become problematic.
In addition to a proper warm-up, stretching, and regular massage; adequate hydration, and the use of a sauna or hot tub after a game or workout, can bring muscles back into balance.
There is a growing demand for massage therapy in both professional amateur organized sports. Many athletes are extolling the benefits of massage to reduce physical/mental stresses, enhance performance and increase overall well-being.