Following on from last months self care article I want to talk about the benefits of sports massage, as this not only benefits clients in the sporting field but also the every day client that comes through my door.
Not only do you have physiological effects of sport massage but also the psychological effects and the physical changes.
Since sports massage can affect the mental state of a client by either stimulating them or reducing their level of stress, the psychological effects are also closely related to the physiological effects
The physiological changes occur as a result of the sympathetic/parasympathetic response.
The psychological changes are the changes that happen to a clients mental state.
The physical changes are the changes which occur regardless of either the clients nervous system response or mental reaction.
The physiological effects of sports massage depending on the method of application can induce either a sympathetic or parasympathetic response from the clients body systems.
However, the majority of the time it is the parasympathetic (relaxation) response which is most beneficial, since this causes:
- vasodilation to both blood and lymphatic vessels as the smooth muscle relaxes.
- reduction in neural stimulation (contraction) of muscles as the skeletal muscles relax
- reduction in the production of sympathetic (‘stress’) hormones
A sympathetic response would cause the opposite to occur.
The sympathetic response.
When massage is performed vigorously it can help increase mental alertness and leave the client feeling stimulated and ready for activity. The physiological response from a treatment will result in chemical changes such as an increase of adrenaline and endorphins in the body, altering the clients psychological state.
The parasympathetic response.
General anxiety can be reduced by similar chemical responses as tension is mechanically lessened in tissues allowing blood to flow into a greater area thereby reducing blood pressure. As the body perceives a reduction in physical tension the mind follows, bringing about feelings of well-being and relaxation.
The placebo effect (i.e. the clients preconceptions about what the treatment will do) can have a significant impact on performance or treatment outcome.
Therefore to maximise the effectiveness of any treatment, and avoid any undesired effects, I as the the sports massage practitioner have to be aware that the mind and the body are reflections of each other.
Alteration/stimulation of either the sympathetic or parasympathetic response, through treatment or communication, will influence all corresponding reactions.
The physical effects
- the mechanical pumping and squeezing action of the strokes will assist in the flow of fluids (i.e. blood and lymph)
- techniques which involve longitudinal and transverse stretching of soft tissue will improve its mobility and will influence the formation of collagen fibres.
- specific techniques can separate muscle fibres that have either become adhered to one another, or to other soft tissue structures, even bones.
So to summarise the benefits of Sports Massage
The increase in circulation due to vasodilation and mechanical pumping/squeezing will:
- increase the supply of nutrients to vascular tissues enhancing their health and aiding in healing and repair.
- aid in the removal of metabolic waste products from tissue assisting in recovery from activity
- help reduce pain, by removal of pressure build up due to congestion and metabolic irritants
Relaxation and mobilisation of soft tissues will:
- increase range of movement, thereby reducing risk of injury and aiding in efficiency of movement
- aid in pain reduction by lessening tension in muscles)
- increase functioning of the muscular system e.g. any adhesions may impair function)
- greater positional awareness, aiding in correction areas of dysfunction, such as poor posture.