What Are The Benefits Of Sports Massage Therapy?

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Sports message involves techniques created to reduce discomfort and pain in specific regions of the body where stress occurs secondary to physical activities. Though the method was originally established for athletes, anyone can benefit from the physical and psychological effects. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that sports massage alleviates pain, enhances mental focus, hastens recovery time and reduces the likelihood of suffering further injury.

Physical Benefits

While massage is commonly known to ease the pain and tension in muscle and connective tissue, the specialized method of touch additionally dilates blood vessels, which promotes overall nutrient-rich blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen to the heart and other organs and tissues. Improved circulation also enhances the elimination of harmful toxins from the body. Relaxation benefits cardiovascular function by lowering heart rate.

Enhanced blood circulation serves to hasten soft tissue healing while decreasing discomfort. Massage also reduces inflammation while promoting the development of more mitochondria, which produces the energy needed within cells to function at optimal levels.

Psychological Benefits

In addition to physical performance and strength, athletes must often depend on mental clarity and focus. Sports massage offers mental benefits by relieving anxiety, stress and tension while stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases the production and release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. The chemical compounds are responsible for many different body functions including mood elevation and pain reduction. In a relaxed state without stress, individuals are more likely to have better mental function.

Massage Techniques

Whether clients are athletes or not, the deep tissue massage of sports therapy affords individuals more benefits compared to typical gentle spa treatments. Sports massage is typically fast-paced and includes stretching and other techniques that largely depend on the area of body needing treatment. Stretching serves to warm soft tissues prior to invigorating sports massage. Designed to alleviate spasms, tension knots and other problems, the therapy is not necessarily always pleasant or without some degree of discomfort.

Scheduling Massage Treatments

In order to gain the greatest level of benefit from sports massage, therapists advise that clients indulge in the therapy at least weekly, every other week or twice monthly if possible. This is especially true when individuals are regularly engaged in high-levels of physical activity or training. Therapists also advise that clients consider receiving treatment three to five days before or after an event, which allows tissues ample time to recover between therapy and the athletic activity. Though not as beneficial, therapists believe that light spa-type massage is ideal immediately following an event or sometime during the next day to encourage relaxation and minimize soreness.

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