What is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue to benefit a person engaged in regular physical activity. Soft tissue is connective tissue that has not hardened into bone and cartilage; it includes skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (a form of connective tissue that lines and ensheathes the other soft tissues). Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems and imbalances in soft tissue that are caused from repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma. The application of sports massage, prior to and after exercise, may enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Sports massage acts to improve performance, reduce pain, prevent injury, encourage focus and shorten recovery time. It basically involves two types of responses: a mechanical response as a result of the pressure and movement and a reflex response where the nerves respond to the stimulation of a massage.
You may not realize it, but massage affects the cardiovascular system. It dilates blood vessels, which helps them work more efficiently to promote circulation. The manual assistance of encouraging venous blood flow back to the heart enhances blood flow, which delivers fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissue and promotes the removal of waste products and toxins. Thanks to the relaxed state you’re in during and after the massage, your heart rate lowers.
More known and expected are the benefits of massage to the muscular system. One of them directly ties to the cardiovascular benefits. The increased and enhanced blood circulation helps to relieve muscle tension, reduce soreness (often caused by DOMS-delayed onset muscle soreness) and make for a faster recovery. Then, the relaxed muscles can experience “an increase in range of motion and flexibility”
Sports massage reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells, following a bout of strenuous exercise or repetitive activity. What does that mean? It means that sports massage can help pain relief, build muscles and encourage their recovery as well. Not only does sports massage feel good on the muscle tissues, it actually is good for them.
Sports massage also benefits your psychological state by reducing stress, tension and anxiety while promoting relaxation by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. So you get an increase in dopamine and serotonin levels and a reduction in cortisol levels, which are directly linked to stress.
That relaxed, lowered-tension state encourages focus, a good thing to have before going into any sport, group exercise class, competition, work place or day to day activities.