Power Of Massage | Relief | Recovery | Third Coast Training
Strength Training For Runners
December 7, 2021

The Power of Massage

Fact: According to a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain to the tune of around $600 billion dollars per year.

It is one of the most common reasons why people visit a massage therapist accounting for up to 40% of visits.

Other common reasons include rehabbing sports injuries, reduction of stress, anxiety, nervousness, relief of pain from accidents or muscle strains, and as a form of preventative health care.

And also, just that good old relaxation that can only come from human touch. A massage does not only benefit you physically, but psychologically as well.

 

What is massage therapy, exactly?

People with specific massage therapy training will have gone to school for a minimum of 500 hours in the sate of Texas and received skilled instruction in the manual manipulation of the body’s soft tissues, including muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments.

The underlying idea behind massage therapy is that a relaxed and loose muscular structure promotes the flow of energy through the body, which enables the body to maintain health and heal itself, without resorting to surgery or drugs.

Most athletes know that a massage is necessary in order to perform optimally during the season. The reason for this is because a massage focuses on relaxing the muscles from intense training sessions to ready them for their event(s) as well as improve the range of motion. An athlete’s muscles will be at their best since the muscles are prepared for an all-out performance.

Here are some common massage therapy modalities that you may encounter, ranging from simple relaxation to treatment of complex pain issues and connective tissue realignment.

Swedish Massage

This is your standard relaxation massage. Swedish massage is very popular in spa settings. It’s often affectionally called the “The Fluff and Buff”.

As one of the most popular types of bodywork performed today, the overall goal of Swedish massage is the ultimate relaxation of the entire body. It is exceptional at achieving this, easing tension while promoting the release of environmental toxins stored in the body’s fat and epidermis layers while simultaneously increasing the oxygen levels in the blood. It will also improve focus and concentration which is exactly what you need to feel at your best.

Swedish massage has also been shown to produce significant reductions in the stress hormone, cortisol.

Trigger Point Therapy

A trigger point is a small area of tightly bound and ‘knotted’ muscle that will produce referred pain into another part of the body when pressed upon. For example, a trigger point in the rhomboid muscle in the upper back can produce headache-like pain at the base of the skull.

Trigger points such as these are often misdiagnosed as migraines. Trigger points range in severity from mildly annoying to completely debilitative. The affected muscle fibers are in a permanently shortened and tense state, and can even pinch nearby nerves, producing even more related symptoms, sometimes spiraling into full-blown fibromyalgia, a disorder of the connective tissues.

This is one area where massage therapy has a distinct advantage over every other form of treatment. Conventional medicine’s answer to trigger points is usually an injection of a local anesthetic or a corticosteroid injection. Both of which are temporary, unnatural treatments and in the case of the corticosteroid, actually damaging to the tissues.

Massage therapy treats these by the application of pressure directly to the trigger point, going over time from light to very deep, (usually within the same session) whereupon the trigger point will begin to release and relax.

Follow-up treatment is nearly always needed to retrain the muscle fibers to lengthen and “smooth” back out. A good massage therapist can often boast a near 100% success rate with trigger point therapy, even when other treatments have failed.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a broader application of trigger point therapy that seeks to restore mobility and function to the body’s underlying network of connective tissue that is present in every muscle in the body. It improves lymph circulation (keeping the blood clean) and enhances the muscle’s natural stretch reflex, keeping the body supple and strong.

It should be noted that these types of massage therapy are NOT the same as a relaxing Swedish massage and can sometimes be quite painful as the body relaxes, releases, and returns to normal homeostasis. It’s important to communicate to us during your treatment if you are uncomfortable at any time.

Sports Massage

As the name implies, sports massage is focused on the athlete. From the highest level of competition, to the casual weekend warrior, sports massage therapists can be found everywhere from weekend 5ks to professional locker rooms, recovery tents at a triathlon, and Olympic fields.

Sports massage focuses on both pre- and post- event training and recovery.

Pre- event for example, may involve stimulating a stretch reflex in the quadriceps muscle of a runner to help lengthen their stride, with repeated treatments resulting in a faster runner who is less prone to injury.

Post-event can take the form of a light, relaxing massage to stimulate healing blood flow to an overused muscle group, enabling the athlete to recover safer and faster, and enable them to perform at a high level sooner than otherwise would be the case.

Rather than a specific technique as in trigger point or myofascial therapies, sport massage focuses on the dual goals of athletic performance and recovery and may borrow heavily on a wide range of modalities to achieve this.

 

But wait there’s more …

The above is by no means a comprehensive list of massage therapy modalities. There are literally dozens of different types of massage, used in everything from lymphatic drainage, body realignment, even neuromuscular therapy that seeks to balance the nervous system.

 

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