Why Healthy Workouts Include Massage
Whether you are an athlete in training for an event, you are dedicated to a daily fitness regimen, or you are just starting to embrace the health benefits of regular exercise, the after-effects of a strenuous workout can be painful and sometimes debilitating. Who hasn’t hobbled through the day after a particularly challenging physical routine at the gym or after a long run outdoors?
What happens to your body when you exercise?
Overall, when you exercise intensely, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are stretched and contracted repeatedly, resulting in tiny tears in muscle fibers and damage to tendons and ligaments that mobilises the body’s healing responses through inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes pain, discomfort and muscle stiffness and body aches. From a physiological perspective, part of this inflammatory healing reactivity involves the overproduction of cytokines (cellular proteins that are released into the circulatory system or into damaged tissue to enhance inflammation and support repair of damaged muscle).
Workouts also cause the fascia (the connective fibers that are responsible for the smooth movement of muscles) to become less smooth which makes it difficult for the muscles to glide across each other.
Thus, it is easy to see why you feel the muscular soreness and body aches that have you gingerly trying to get out of bed the day after a tough workout.
The phenomenon of aching muscles that you suffer from the day after you have been physically active actually has a name – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS is caused when you make muscles work harder and differently than they are used to doing. This is particularly true in cases where the muscles are worked during ‘eccentric’ contractions ie-when the muscle is simultaneously lengthened and contracted during the lowering or releasing motions of the exercise. For example, when you run down a hill, walk downstairs, lower a barbell, or perform the downward motion of a squat, you are causing eccentric contractions to take place.
How Massage Can Assist Your Workout
Massage has been shown to reduce the pain and discomfort post-workout and to speed up healing of muscle damage in the following ways:
- it is known to reduce the production of cytokines and thus diminish inflammation.
- other scientific investigations have found that massage also stimulates the mitochondria within the cells to generate more rapid conversion of glucose to the cellular energy necessary for cell repair.
- It improves more rapid recovery from DOMS because it increases blood flow and reduces muscle tightness.
- It helps loosen up your muscles after an intense workout, which assists in muscle flexibility and relaxation
- It stretches the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia can help work out the knots and flush out the toxins
- A study (https://www.livescience.com/18251-massage-reduce-inflammation-increase-energy.html) found that subsequent optimal workout performance was enhanced when massage was part of the post-workout routine.
- As part of the self-care routine, it can provide a balance between endorphins from working out and reduced cortisol for physical and mental stress-relief.
In summary, as you exercise vigorously, change up your routine, or begin a new fitness program, injured muscle fibers, overstretched tendons, ligaments, damaged fascia, and the body’s natural healing responses can result in discomfort, soreness, and stiffness that impede your ability to move freely. As healing takes place and muscles grow and strengthen, massage can be a powerful ally for relief that shortens recovery time and ultimately encourages more effective means to accomplish the improved health and wellbeing you seek.