Massages aren't exclusively for relaxing spa days. According to Dr. Matt Stevens, owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio), a regular sports massage can help athletes maintain their bodies when training hard and competing in sports.
Here are some of the benefits of a sports massage:
Sports massages alleviate muscle tension. A massage therapist is able to target tight and tender areas—also referred to as adhesions—with high levels of force. This signals your nervous system to relax, helping to alleviate tension within the targeted muscle.
Sports massages improve recovery. Stevens explains that a sports massage after a tough workout or game may improve recovery by increasing circulation. In fact, a study found that a massage decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness—the extreme soreness you get when exercising a muscle for the first time in a while—by about 30 percent.
Sports massages increase range of motion. Have tight shoulders, hips or other joints? A sports massage can target the stiff muscles that are binding up your joints so you can move through a greater range of motion.
Sports massages are more targeted than foam rolling. Foam rolling is great, but a roller can only target large, broad muscles. Even a lacrosse ball can't replicate what a massage therapist can do with their fingers, thumbs, palms and elbows.
Sports massages are relaxing and feel good. Is your body banged up from constantly pushing yourself? Or are you a bit stressed from your jam-packed schedule of school, sports, training and homework? A massage can help you relax and alleviate some of this physical and psychological stress.
So when should you get a sports massage? In an ideal world, Stevens recommends getting one or two sports massages per week. If this isn't feasible, then get a massage as needed or use a foam roller, which is a good (and free) alternative—although it's not quite as effective as a massage as mentioned above. Also, make sure to give yourself 3-4 days between a massage and a big game to ensure your muscles are firing optimally when you need to perform.
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