During my studies to become a sports massage therapist, I spent numerous hours at this keyboard scanning the internet researching for the many assignments that were necessary to be qualified. Read on and you may discover some of the things you may not know about the amazing benefits of massage.
The effects of massage to the skin are very beneficial; The pumping squeezing and deep strokes of the therapist’s massage technique improves the circulation to the different layers of the skin. It increases the temperature of the skin and the muscles stimulating vaso-dilation of the capillaries and arterioles. This increases the flow of nutrients such as glucose oxygen and various vitimins. Because massage helps to increase blood circulation it helps exfoliate dead skin cells and tone the skin, which encourages cell regeneration and assists in excreting waste products. The result is healthier, better-looking skin. It also improves the skin colour. It also increases the nutrition to the cells which in turn encourages new cells to form more quickly. It also improves elasticity of the skin, increases sebum production which helps to improve suppleness and also a resistance to infections. It increases sweat production from the sweat glands which helps to excreta urea and waste products through the skin.
The pumping, squeezing and deep stroking techniques of the therapist, forces the blood flow through dilated vessels, which in turn stretches the vessesls. The squeezing effect compresses the vessels and blood rushes back which increases the osmotic pressure, this sudden flow results in more nutrients and plasma to the tissues. The effects of massage also improves circulation by assisting the flow of blood back to the heart through the venous system. Massage dilates the blood vessels which makes them work more efficiently, it helps to deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and in turn improves the removal of waste products. Because massage relaxes the client helps decrease the heart rate, which helps with blood pressure. Ischaemia is a reduction in the flow of blood to body parts which causes pain and tissue dysfunction, massage can help with this.
Mobilisation of soft tissue
Massage can help with the mobilisation of soft tissue in many cases it will free adhesions. It can also break down scar tissue. If a client has had some bruising often inflammation occurs, once the bruising has started to disappear then massage will be possible to decrease inflammation. Massage can improve joint mobility it reduces the thickening of the connective tissue and helps to release the restrictions in the facia. Massage improves muscle tone and balance, reducing the physical stress placed on bones and joints.
Increased healing rate and tissue repair
When massage techniques are applied it relieves the tightness and restrictions in the muscles. Because massage has a warming and relaxing effect on muscle tissue it is able to stretch better and become more flexible. Because massage increases the blood circulation it brings more oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissue. Which in turn, reduces muscle fatigue and possible soreness, increasing the healing rate and tissue repair.
Lymphatic drainage, is a technique used by therapists which promotes rapid removal of toxins and waste products such as lactic acid from the muscle. The techniques that the therapist uses has a pumping effect which improves the flow of fluid to lymph vessels. The lymph flows towards the heart, gets drained into the circulatory system then flushed away by the kidneys. The increased blood flow caused by massage helps increase the nourishment muscles receive and carries the wastes from the muscles into the lymphatic system. By encouraging the flow of lymph this also helps pump toxins out of your body enhancing your immune system as it increases white blood cells. Oedema is excess fluid in the tissue; massage can reduce this by Lymphatic drainage. When an athlete gets an injury excess fluid can form with the inflammation and get trapped in the muscle tissues the massage techniques assist in the removal process of the lymphatic flow.
Massage increases general circulation in endocrine system and normalizes endocrine activity through balancing effect on the Autonomic Nervous System. Massage techniques stimulate the release of the body’s natural painkillers which stop the transmission and perception of pain in the brain.
The master gland of the endocrine system is the hypothalamus which controls homeostasis, whch simply means the ‘balance of the body’ massage can do a lot to improve the balance of chemicals called hormones in the endocrine system.
Massage increases dopamine and seratonin, These are the two hormones that improve mood and promotes a feeling of well being it also reduces the effects of stress. It also lowers epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) which are part of our “fight or flight” response and sympathetic nervous system. These are responsible for our initial reactions to short term stress. And, massage lowers the level of another hormone called cortisol which is responsible for your body’s long term stress response.
Balanced autonomic nervous system
Calming the nervous system is one of the effects of massage. This facilitates relaxation.
When we use different massage techniques it stimulates the sensory receptors within our skin, this can stimulate and soothe the nerves. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with relaxation and reduces stress.
Might shift the patient’s nervous system away from the sympathetic and toward the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system helps mobilize the body for action. When a person is under stress, it produces the fight-or-flight response (the heart rate and breathing rate go up, for example; the blood vessels narrow; and muscles tighten). The parasympathetic nervous system creates what some call the “rest and digest” response (the heart rate and breathing rate slow down, for example; the blood vessels dilate; and activity increases in many parts of the digestive tract). Ref: www.medicinenet.com
Decreased pain/pain gate theory
Massage in some cases, provide stimulation that may help block pain signals sent to the brain (the “gate control theory” of pain reduction).
The Gate Control Theory was devised by Patrick Wall and Ronald Melzack in 1965. This theory states that pain is a function of the balance between the information travelling into the spinal cord through large nerve fibres and information travelling into the spinal cord through small nerve fibres. If the relative amount of activity is greater in large nerve fibres, there should be little or no pain. However, if there is more activity in small nerve fibres, then there will be pain.
Massage can interfere with the transmission of pain decreasing the perception of pain
Massage helps to reduce pain by the release of endorphins which are know to elevate the mood.
Massage enhances peace of mind and the emotional benefits are very beneficial it helps the therapist to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately. A good relaxing massage can relieve the athletes stress and tension in his muscles and will leave him with a sense of wellbeing. During massage therapy, the massage therapist works the tension out of stiff and sore muscles, encouraging the athlete to relax. This may help the person receiving the massage on many levels: his muscles feel relaxed and are no longer sore, when he is relaxed and no longer tense, the muscles loosen, allowing a larger range of motion. Improved range of motion, mood, balance, posture, enables the athlete to perform better. When specific injured muscles are massaged, Stress and tension are rubbed away with any aches or pains in the body. The massage motions combined with heat generated, also causes the athlete to not only relax, release tension, amazingly in some cases emotions may also be released. The Massage techniques used by the therapist also encourages a healthy sleep pattern. Massage methods also encourage the slowing of the heart and the calming of the nervous system, which result in lower blood pressure this has a stimulating effect on the athlete.
Massage can have a placebo effect. One example; I have found that many of my clients have been put at ease because of the fact that I have listened to them and cared about their problems, where as other professionals have not had the time. I think even the consultation period before a massage can provide some health benefits from the interaction between therapist and client.
Massage fosters a felling of well being, in many cases it can enhance the capacity for clam thinking which leads to the reduction of anxiety. (This can help with pre match nerves) It can increase the awareness of mind-body connection. Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness and helps relieve mental stress. Massage removes all the negative energy from your body and leaves your mind and body completely relaxed, you start thinking more in the present that helps you be more aware.
How Steve & Sports massage help you as an Athlete?
When an athlete becomes injured the sports massage therapist can play a big part in rehabilitation not only on the physical side. He can help with the psychology as well. When the athlete first gets injured one of the first stages is denile, ‘I just cannot believe I have been a got injured’ is a common cry. The athlete then sometime becomes angry with the reality of the situation. He then gets frustrated that the recovery process is taking so long. The therapist plays an important roll at this stage.
The athlete can get depressed and sometimes has no physical or emotional control. Massage techniques provide electrical and chemical activity in the brain and reduce the levels of stress hormones, resulting in a relaxation of depressed mood. Beacause massage increases the circulation of blood, this helps stimulate depression and improves the mood in athletes with anxiety and physical disorders.
If he is in a team they sometimes feel left out, isolated and imagine a void has formed between them and the rest of the team. This can further there self doubt and lower there self-esteem. I have found that some of the players who I treat at this stage get frustrated and stop going to rehab. It is a very critical stage. This is where we need to convince and motivate them that recovery is working but might take a little bit more time.
As stated above if the injured athlete is in a team he feels isolated and that he has let the team down. The best thing to say at this stage is that ‘it could of happened to them’ Setting goals for the athlete to achieve is a good way to getting the athletes mind off the team and to start thinking about himself.
To offer support throughout the whole rehab process is very important, as are communication skills, it helps to be a good listener as well!, to show concern and offer encouragement that the rehab is working!
Recovery time and mood
Athletes react to injuries with a wide range of emotions as mentioned before, including denial, anger, and in some cases in depression. Injury seems unfair to the athlete who has been physically active and healthy.
It is important for the athlete to move beyond the negative and find more positive strategies to cope with an injury. He needs to understand that recovery time including the rehab. is essential.
Affective response to massage method
After the massage the athlete should start to feel the benefits both physically and mentally. He should notice the improved range of motion from massage and stretching combined. The athlete should notice improved posture and performance. The athlete should be more healthy due to an improved immune system. Massage therapy can provide the perfect way for unlocking the positive feelings in athletes.
Pre event massage
Pre event massage is a short specific treatment given immediately before or up to two days before the event. It increases the circulation, mobility, flexibility, and mental clarity of the athlete which improves the performance. It can be used in between the warm up period but must not replace the athletes warm up.
Inter event massage
Although time is very short to massage during an event, massage can have a beneficial effect. The massage should be short, light and releasing. Cramp can be a big problem at this stage and massage is a great way to relieve it. There can also be a build up of lactic acid at this stage and removal will only benefit the athlete. Other benefits are to relieve excessive tension and drain unwanted toxins from the body.
Post event massage
Post even massage should be performed after a cool down, possibly within 1-2 hours after the event. If this is not possible then roughly 3 days later will prove beneficial. Post event massage helps reduce fatigue, speeds up recovery time, and relieves tension, cramping, and any inflammation that might have occurred. It is also common to have a build up of lactic acid at this stage. To improve flexibility of the athlete stretching is advised at this time.
Effleurage is always used at the start of massage when applying oil; it consists of a variety of stroking movements, usually carried out with the whole palm of the hand and fingers. It is used in such a way as to relax the client. With experience it is used in a way to be able to examine the area before deeper massage. Effleurage is also used to complete the massage finishing with light stroking to again relax the client, particularly if movements that are more painful have been used beforehand.
Petrissage or kneading is used on deeper tissues for mobilising fluids, stretching muscle fibres, and inducing relaxation. Some of these techniques are specifically aimed at only deeper tissue and are therefore both ineffective and difficult to perform on narrow parts of the limbs. You must therefore pay particular attention, as with all massage techniques, as to what your purpose is when kneading petrissage is a powerful technique that is particularly effective in mobilising fluids in very deep muscles and applying a good stretch to the fibres involved.
Percussion movements are made with alternate hands striking the skin in a rapid succession.
Variants are: cupping, hacking, and beating which all increase circulation.
This is the deepest technique used in massage and is targeted at specific areas of soft tissue damage. Moves include
- Friction with one thumb on top of each other
- Friction with the tip of the thumb strengthened by the fingers of the other hand
- Friction with the thumb, supported by the other fingers and strengthened by the other hand
- Friction with the finger tip supported by the other fingers
- Friction with the tip of the elbow
Deep tissue techniques are the most effective way to identify deep lesions they should be
performed slowly to help with observation.
Is a way of loosening muscle fibres by going across the muscle.
Has a pumping effect to increase the blood flow to muscles by going lengthways with the direction of the muscle.
Vibrations (rocking & shaking)
Rocking is used mainly after the massage and appeals to the senses on a more primary level, it’s a bit like rocking a baby it promotes relaxation and assurance.
The effects of Shaking are similar to those of rocking it is excellent for overall relaxation and stimulation. It is also a good way to loosen joints.
As a therapist it is very important to give good after care advice, this is necessary to help speed up the recovery process. It is important to recommend total rest for a few days after treatment. After this total rest period it is important for the client to keep relatively active rather than total rest. The client will need to do certain types of exercises and activities. Strengthening and correct stretching also play a big part in the rehabilitation stage.
This is sometimes called active rehabilitation, as a coach I personally call it ‘active rest’
Any form of gentle activity promotes blood circulation and also activates the lymphatic system which helps to clear the body of toxins that have built up during injury. PNF stretching also plays a big part at this stage.
Psychologically the client ‘feels he is getting back to fitness and is at least doing some exercise!’
Many clients do not drink enough water, this is a good time to emphasise this point as it is very important to flush out bad toxins that have built up in the system. Being hydrated will help relieve and speed up recovery time.
Contact Steve: Treatment Room: 01736 – 752217 Mobile: 077 37 57 27 37
Contact Steve: Treatment Room: 01736 – 752217 Mobile: 077 37 57 27 37