Massage is an ancient art that continues to live on and grow in popularity as a type of alternative medicine used to promote wellness. The societal conception is primarily of massages as a method for relaxation, but a growing body of evidence shows that the effects go much deeper than just that. There are many different people who can benefit from regular massages, but one group in particular that can gain a lot of synergies from the soothing activity is athletes.
First of all, massages loosen our muscles and are akin to stretching in many ways. This leads to increased flexibility, which can be important for optimal performance and to reduce risk of injury. Massages should not replace stretching, but the two together likely have a greater impact of injury prevention and performance than either one alone. The stretching of muscle fibers is a big positive.
With the stretching, comes improved blood flow as vessels allow for increased blood to reach the massaged areas. Improved circulation can help with overall oxygenation of the body and can an impact on breathing as well. After the exercise, it can also have impacts on better recovery times. There is even some evidence that massages can help alleviate pain.
The relaxation effects of massages, especially deep tissue massages, can also help with improving sleep. Athletes can increase the quality and quantity of sleep, allowing them to better recharge for the next day and to rebuild their muscles are particularly strenuous outings. The relaxation itself has a great effect too of course. The stress relief is a big plus, especially in athletes who are particularly energetic or “type A”. Massages can help the body and mind relax, which is important for sustainability and optimal performance.
Because of the myriad of health benefits that massages have for athletes, the athletic massage market is expanding rapidly. Massage therapists are increasingly considering the arena (both literally and figuratively!) for their practice as more athletes look for that type of service. The locker rooms of professional sports places are full of massage therapists and this is only bound to expand to lower levels of sport. Athletes increasingly understand the importance of keeping their bodies well-conditioned and the role massages can play in that need. It will be interesting to see where the market heads as this thought permeates the culture of various sports and at all different levels.
A deep tissue massage once a week can help athletes stay in tip-top shape and perform better both physically and mentally. Massage therapists specializing in athletes can be found online or in the phone book. There are many different options and you should do your time on research to make sure you find the right fit for you. It is also possible that your gym or doctor has a recommendation which might work for you. It is all about doing some research, giving it a try, and deciding from there whether they are a good long term option. It could make the difference between a win and a loss.