Massaging has long been seen as a luxury or an extravagance aimed at purely relaxation purposes by the general population. There are more than 80 types of massage throughout the world, each with different styles, techniques and benefits. However, numerous professional sports athletes and coaches have long used certain types of massages as powerful tools to aid in their performance and recovery.
Most athletes primarily use deep tissue or sports style massages in their training regimens. Deep Tissue massage differs to more traditional and Swedish style massage as it concentrates on the deep layers of muscle fascia of the body. Up until fairly recently, there was little or no scientific evidence of the impact deep tissue massage truly had on an athlete’s recovery of performance, but since then there have been numerous studies showing just how effective they are.
Improves blood flow and lymphatic drainage
Deep tissue massage helps to improve the blood flow throughout the body which greatly improves the delivery of nutrients and the removal of waste products and toxins from these areas. This helps to reduce any inflammation in these areas that can cause pain or leave you feeling uncomfortable, and as such greatly improves recovery rates from physical exercise. There is also evidence that regular massages can increase the level of red and white blood cells in your blood, and reduce blood pressure whilst maintaining increased blood flow. This will enhance your immune system to protect you from illness and injury.
Deep tissue massages can also help to improve the efficiency of your lymphatic system, particularly lymphatic drainage. This helps to remove damaging toxins and waste materials, as well as the removal of any excess fluid that builds up.
Breakdown of scar tissue and reducing tension
One of the main aims of deep tissue massage is to break down any scar tissue or knots that have formed within any musculature. These can frequently build up as a result of strenuous exercise and dehydration, and can negatively impact muscle flexibility and function. This could lead to a reduction in performance and an increase in an athlete’s risk of injury. Deep tissue massages focus on breaking down these tight muscle clusters to return them back to full function and flexibility, reducing tension and improving muscle elasticity. Muscles that are fully loosened and free from knots have a greater range of motion and elasticity. This means that they can perform at their maximum potential, without impairment, and makes them much more resistant to injuries.
Increases muscle and joint flexibility
As stated earlier, knots and scar tissue can frequently build up in the muscles which can significantly impair their range of motion and their ability to contract and extend. This will lead to the feeling of stiffness in the joints. For example, tight quads or hamstrings can lead to more force being put through the knee joint as a way to compensate for the muscle’s reduced function, causing stiffness or pain during exercise. Deep tissue massage can help to restore the function and flexibility of the affected muscle groups by breaking down any knots or tight areas and therefore alleviating the pain of stiffness of joints.
Deep tissue massage is a great way to help speed up rehabilitation from any injuries. As explained earlier, deep tissue massage help to increase blood flow to the injured area. This leads to greater delivery of nutrients and oxygen, whilst speeding up the removal of toxins and waste materials via the lymphatic system. This gives the affected area the optimal environment for which to repair, reduce the level of inflammation and help to fight off any pain. Regular massage can help to keep the muscle fibres to repair in the correct alignment without forming any knots or tight clusters. This will speed up recovery and ensure the best possible repair to reduce the chance of re-injury.
This is a somewhat controversial point when concerning deep tissue or sports massages. This point is definitely true with regards to more conventional style massages such as Swedish massage. These types rely on soothing sounds, scents and a top layer level of gentle massage to give an overall level relaxation. However, these styles do not accomplish what deep massages do, which target the deeper levels of muscle. This is a major difference and is why it is not relaxing at all. In fact, it hurts, it hurts a lot. The breaking down of knots and scar tissue is very painful, particularly if you haven’t had one before or for a long time, but unfortunately it is what is required to receive the benefits of the process.
However, the period after the massage is completely different. Once the massage is completed you will feel the immediate effects of the endorphins as blood flow is increased and toxins are flushed from your system. Your muscles will feel instantly looser and more flexible, if not a little bruised and battered! The biggest difference you will notice is during your next training session, and speaking from personal experience, performance instantly increased as the muscles are functioning as they should with a full range of motion.
Deep tissue massage will help to loosen tight muscle caused by stress, such as neck, shoulders and traps. This can help to alleviate symptoms such as headaches or migraines and prevent them from returning. This will help to restore focus and concentration, to enhance production in the gym, at work and at home.