By Melanie Mueller, owner of Scents of Serenity Organic Spa
Physical activity is important for overall health for everyone. Whether it is organized team sports such as softball and soccer, individual sports like running and golf, or class-room style exercise such as yoga and Zumba, the act of exercise is good both physically and emotionally. This sentiment is not lost on residents of RVA either. On any given weekday you will see runners and cyclists about town, and area fields are filled by teams of all types.
Have you added massage therapy into your regular exercise routine? Massage therapy is not only a great relaxation tool, it can aid in muscle recovery, as well as repair and/or prevent injury.
When you work out, and hit that anaerobic state, your muscles create lactic acid. Lactic acid will cause muscle fatigue, hampering your exercise. Massage therapy removes residual lactic acid, while also increasing oxygen absorption by muscles. Improper, or more often nonexistent, stretching can lead to muscle inelasticity, a result of heavy exercise. Regular massage therapy will loosen up muscles increasing elasticity, which can increase overall movement. Massage therapy is very beneficial for relieving inflammation, whether the result of an injury or through diet and exercise.
Some people steer away from sports massage, worried that the massage will not be relaxing, opting for a traditional Swedish massage instead. Performed correctly, a sports massage is every bit as relaxing as a traditional massage. During a massage, endorphins are released by the body through the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. These endorphins act as your body’s natural pain reliever.
It is important to know what to expect during a massage though. First thing to happen is the massage therapist will want to know what sports and activities you participate in, as well as if you are experiencing any chronic pain or injuries. This will help the massage therapist customize the massage.
The massage will include muscle manipulation, zone specific passive stretching, as well as overall muscle group alignment. A great way to increase the benefits of the massage is to add essential oils, such as white fir, lavender, and helichrysium. Essential oils are very beneficial to muscles by reducing inflammation, increasing oxygen to the muscles, as well as aiding in muscle repair. Helichrysium has been found to repair damaged muscle tissue.
Let’s take a moment to expand on inflammation to better understand how this fits into a massage therapy conversation. Inflammation, in controlled amounts, plays a vital role in fighting off injury and infection, but then needs to be flushed out as part of the healing process. Massage therapy will aid in that process, helping the body to filter and flush toxins, increase oxygen and microcirculation, and bring new cells to the muscles. When your body is unable to remove inflammation, and it becomes chronic inflammation, your body will not be able to fight infection as well or be equipped to stay healthy. There is more and more research regarding chronic inflammation as a root to many types of cancer, heart disease, and even depression. Massage therapy is beneficial in reducing that inflammation, providing overall physical and emotional support.
Whether you are a triathlete or just a weekend warrior, making sports massage a regular part of your workout regimen will pay dividends, both physically and mentally.