How does sports massage help prevent injuries?
Sports massage can play a role in helping us stay injury-free as well as supporting the healing of injuries. But how?
Many activities include movements which are repeated again and again: a 5 kilometer walk or run can be around 4-5,000 steps (more or less depending on stride length). Swimming and cycling can also involve thousands of strokes or pedal rotations in each session. Time spent at a desk using a computer places repetitive demands on our bodies. Both movement and maintaining posture requires muscles to work together in a way which balance each other.
Our muscles are continually repairing, rebuilding and adapting to the activities we demand of them, but frequent repetitive movement patterns or body positions without sufficient rest or breaks can mean that muscles don’t fully recover and relax and tension can start building. Over time muscle imbalances can start developing as some muscles tighten and shorten, and others become weak or inhibited as a result. Imbalances can reduce range of motion as joints become restricted, and are placed under unequal stresses, which can cause changed movement patterns, altered posture and potentially pain and injury.
Sports massage can release muscle tension and restrictions through the application of pressure and movement and help restore more balanced muscle function. This enables increased mobility and reduces joint stress. Massage can also identify areas of tension, soreness and weakness meaning these can be addressed through stretching, foam rolling and strengthening as well as ongoing massage before they result in an injury. In addition massage works with the nervous system and can encourage relaxation both at a muscular and whole body level, with profound benefits for reducing tension and stress.
Other ways of giving ourselves the best chance of staying injury free include:
- warming up before any activity,
- changing exercise volume or intensity slowly to give our bodies time to adapt,
- including strength and mobility sessions such as yoga and pilates in any training plan,
- staying well hydrated and appropriately fuelled for any activity
- Prioritising recovery with cool-downs, active recovery sessions and getting enough sleep