The truth about massage
Many who train seriously include it in their routine. But what exactly are the benefits of massage? We ask remedial message therapist Jackie Messaike from Jackie’s Sports Massage.
FF mag: What does massage actually relieve?
Jackie Messaike: As we know, the human body doesn’t like to feel pain or discomfort. When your muscles start to feel a build up of tension, another muscle will take over and start to work harder to take the pressure off the initial tight area. Over the course of our lives our muscles are tightening, and we’re totally unaware of this tension slowly building.
This can be the beginning of a long sequence of muscular imbalances throughout your body. Eventually, the body can’t compensate anymore and somewhere you will experience a musculoskeletal problem.
When you have a sports massage, the therapist is trained to assess your body for tension areas that you may have but are totally unaware of. It’s their job to release those tension spots before they result in a painful injury or become chronic pain.
FF mag: What’s the science behind massage?
JM: The biggest and most researched benefit of massage is the effect it has on our hormones. When we’re stressed the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine increase, causing symptoms such as high blood pressure, anxiety and decreased immunity. Massage has been proven to lower stress levels, balancing your hormones and relaxing you. Additionally, serotonin (the happy hormone) is released, helping to reduce depression and stress symptoms, improving your mental wellbeing.
The other big effect, of course, is physical. A muscle “knot” is a small bunched up group of muscle fibers in spasm, which contain excess lactic acid, unusual deposits of protein and other bodily toxins. We get muscle knots by overworking our muscles, through accidents and injuries and from stress that we encounter on a daily basis. When a massage therapist applies pressure to your muscles, the primary response to this touch is that the nervous system, circulatory system and digestive system is activated to help rid the toxins from of your body and help to relax and stop that muscle spasming.
FF mag: If you’re new to working out, when is massage useful?
JM: When you start any exercise program these tight and/or weak muscles will hinder your training — they will stop other muscles from activating properly. They will remain weak while all the tight muscles get even tighter. Before any strengthening exercises are prescribed, these tight muscles must be massaged and stretched to avoid injury in the future and to help you get the maximum benefit out of your strength training.
FF mag: How often should I have a massage if I only workout occasionally?
JM: Some people find they need weekly to fortnightly massages to feel their best and others are fine with once a month. What I recommend at Jackie’s Sports Massage is if you’re quite tight after your initial assessment we may need to see you weekly for a few weeks and then our aim is to get you into a monthly maintenance massage program. We’ve found that this works best for most people in helping them to remain pain free so they can continue their long term fitness plan without injury.