This is a question I get asked all the time by my inquisitive clients. I have seen for myself over the years how massage has helped people with many problems that have not been improved by other kinds of therapy. It has many benefits, whether it's injury management, performance enhancement, a recovery aid or just for relaxation. Unfortunately for us massage therapists, research into the effects of Sports Massage appears to be on thin ground and there hasn’t been a lot of positive outcomes of studies in recent years. This article is going to help explain the positive effects of massage and why you should take the negative studies with a pinch of salt. First let’s start off with the proven benefits and effects massage has on the human body. Some of these include:
- Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
- Increased joint mobility and flexibility
- Increases serotonin and endorphins
- Increases mental alertness and clarity
- Relieves anxiety and stress
- Improved immune function
- Improved circulation
- Decreases symptoms of depression
- Relief of many common ailments, such as headaches, backache and muscular tension
The problem with researching massage is that there are many factors which affect the outcome of a treatment: the frequency, type of massage given and the actual therapist who is giving the massage. Sports Massage tends to have a cumulative effect, one treatment will help in the short term, but for sorting out bigger problems, it will take a series of treatments. This explains why some of the studies that have been carried out haven’t shown much proof that massage works. One study published in the journal Physical Therapy in Sport found no beneficial effects on hamstring length, even though the participants were only given a single 8 minute treatment each. This is where the problem lies. It is very hard to study the effects of massage, as everyone is different and everyone reacts differently to it.
The great news is that there has been more positive research to report. One study published in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, based their study on subjects receiving three massages a week on one leg and no massage on the other. They found the massaged legs gained four degrees of flexibility and 13% more strength. Another study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found a 30% reduction in post – exercise muscle soreness and these are just two of many studies which prove the effects of massage.
There's no denying the benefits, whether it be psychological or physical. Why would professional athletes include it as a vital part of their training programme if it had no effect? So if you have a niggle, a pain or just feeling very stressed, come in for a treatment. I promise you will feel better, be able to move more freely, be in less pain and feel like you can take on the anything that is thrown your way.