Running the London Marathon - The Importance of Sports Massage

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A sports massage after such a tough run would be beneficial to the runner.  But sports massage also plays an important part in the life of any sportsman or woman, whatever their chosen sport, whether they are injured or not. Sports massage has a number of benefits outlined below including physical, physiological and psychological. 

Sports massage can:

- Prevent injuries and loss of mobility.

- Restore mobility to any injured muscle tissue.

- Boost performance.

- Extend the overall life of sporting careers.

Physical effects of massage are:

Pumping - the stroking movements in massage help to move fluid through blood and lymph vessels. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will restrict blood flow through the tissues depriving them of vital nutrients and energy to repair.

Deep massage - this causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through. This helps remove waste products such as lactic acid and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients which help them recover quicker.

Stretching - massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched in the usual methods. Bundles of muscle fibres are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways. Massage can also stretch the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up.

Breaking down scar tissue - scar tissue is the result of previous injuries or trauma and can affect muscle, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to inflexible tissues that are prone to further injury and pain.

Improving tissue elasticity - hard training can make tissues hard and inelastic. This is one reason why hard training may not result in an improved performance. Massage helps reverse this by stretching the tissues.

Opening micro-circulation - massage increases blood flow to tissues as does exercise. In addition, massages opens or dilates the blood vessels. By stretching them it enables nutrients to pass through more easily.

Physiological effects of sports massage are:

Pain reduction - tension and waste products in muscles can often cause pain. Massage helps reduce this in many ways but predominantly by stimulating the release of endorphins.

Relaxation - muscles relax through heat generation, improved circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors which sense touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth are stimulated causing a reflex relaxation.

Psychological effects of sports massage are:

Anxiety reduction – massage can induce relaxation and subsequently reduce anxiety.

Invigoration - if massage is performed with brisk movements before a specific sporting event it can produce an invigorating feeling.

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