Sports massage: A comprehensive review

The science of sports massage is of interest to many populations including athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, as well as sports physiologists.  While evidence to support or refute the effects of massage on sports performance is insufficient to make definitive statements, new reports and trends within data help formulate an understanding of sports massage.

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Effects of Massage on Delayed-OnsetMuscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recoveryof Muscle Function

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describesmuscle pain and tenderness that typically develop severalhours postexercise and consist of predominantly eccentric muscleactions, especially if the exercise is unfamiliar. Although DOMS is likely a symptom of eccentric-exercise–induced muscledamage, it does not necessarily reflect muscle damage.Some prophylactic or therapeutic modalities may be effectiveonly for alleviating DOMS, whereas others may enhance recoveryof muscle function without affecting DOMS.

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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness-Treatment Strategies

Up to six hypothesised theories have been proposed for the mechanism of DOMS, namely: lactic acid, muscle spasm, connective tissue damage, muscle damage, inflammation and the enzyme efflux theories.

A number of treatment strategies have been introduced to help alleviate the severity of DOMS and to restore the maximal function of the muscles as rapidly as possible. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have demonstrated dosage-dependent effects that may also be influenced by the time of administration.  Similarly, massage has shown varying results that may be attributed to the time of massage application and the type of massage technique used. Cryotherapy, stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound and electrical current modalities have demonstrated no effect on the alleviation of muscle soreness or other DOMS symptoms.  Exercise is the most effective means of alleviating pain during DOMS, however the analgesic effect is also temporary.

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Kinesiology and Massage Therapy

Movement and massage therapy naturally go together.  When we look at the roots of massage therapy, we find that the combination of massage techniques is ultimately designed to create, enhance, or restore the movement within various systems of the body.

Many aspects of the incorporation of kinesiology are inherent in our massage education.  We are taught to use certain strokes to release the tissue in order to enhance movement.  We learned the origins, insertions, and actions of the laundry list of muscles that we received in our first term of school.  By understanding them, we were able to look at the body from the perspective of movement and how it was supposed to move and what structures might be involved when it didn’t.

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The Role of Massage Therapy in Tennis

Samantha StosurThe benefits of sports massage therapy are numerous and affect every system of the body.  As the sport of tennis involves all body systems, incorporating this modality into the overall training strategy is relevant for reaching tennis goals.

Check out this article on how massage therapy is utilized at the Women’s Tennis Association…The Role of Massage Therapy in Tennis

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