Therapeutic sports massage is a type of massage technique that focuses on treating soft tissue aches, pain and injuries that are associated with recreational activities.
Although many athletes are convinced of the physical benefit of massage, research on its effectiveness is limited. Massage involves applying mechanical pressure to the soft tissues, and this is believed to result in improved muscle flexibility, increased range of motion in the joints and decreased muscle stiffness.
The pressure of massage may also improve blood flow during the massage and increase muscle temperature. Massage reduces heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Most people report a feeling of relaxation, reduced anxiety and improved mood as a result. Athletes may indeed find an edge in these psychological benefits.
When it comes to using massage to improve performance and prevent injury, the research isn’t as positive. In fact, little scientific evidence supports these claims. Available research shows that post-exercise massage reduces the intensity of muscle soreness but has no effect on the muscle functional loss (weakness, fatigue, decreases in strength, etc.) that often occurs after intense training or competition.
However, for most athletes, less muscle pain and stiffness and an improved sense of relaxation and well-being are reasons enough to enjoy regular massage. And as researchers continue to study the mind/body connection, they may discover that the psychological benefits of massage do improve physical functioning.
Source: The American Massage Therapy Association