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Recovery Revolution: Myo Provides Sports Massage in Chester for Athletes. What’s The Science Behind It?

This weeks post was supposed to be a short dive into the research. Oi-oi that was optimistic. The world of research is a funny place. Once scientists get their hands on a thing, their natural inclination is to apply a reductive analysis to that thing. They attempt to control variables and so one finds research on 'sports massage' where the massage is provided by a theragun... That said, we've had a look through what there is out there and here's some of what the scientists have to say. Happy reading!

A computer printout from a heart-rate monitor
The science doesn't lie...?

In the dynamic world of sports, where performance and recovery are paramount, athletes are continually looking for innovative strategies to gain a competitive edge. Among these strategies, sports massage has emerged as a potential game-changer, offering scientifically-backed benefits for athletes. Let's dive deeper into the science behind sports massage and explore how it could revolutionize recovery for athletes in Chester, delving into the methodologies of some key studies.

Before we set out some of the research that’s out there, let us first of all stipulate a few words of caution: what is sports massage? Many of our clients appreciate that what they may have received, advertised as sports massage, prior to finding Myokinetics was little more than a rub down. Their experience of results demonstrates that it often takes 24-48 hours for the benefits of massage to become clear (although this is not always the case). This is especially true where their sports massage, due to the nature of the presenting issues, was the equivalent of a strenuous exercise session.

The research on and reviews of the subject that we have found include studies with numerous methodologies. While researchers can control for many things, it is not possible to control for poorly executed sports massage, nor can physiological benefits be tested if done so immediately subsequent to the massage treatment (as outlined above). These issues will invariably have an impact on the quality of the research results obtained. So with that out of the way, what does the research show?

Reducing DOMS: A Pathway to Peak Performance

In a groundbreaking study conducted by Hilbert et al. (2003), athletes were subjected to an intense exercise regimen to induce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Following the exercise protocol, participants underwent a series of massage sessions. The study meticulously measured muscle soreness through subjective reporting and objective assessments. The results suggested that sports massage significantly reduced DOMS, providing empirical evidence for its potential as a recovery tool.

Performance Recovery One: Meta-Analyzing Success

Poppendieck et al. (2016) took a broader perspective by conducting a meta-analysis, aggregating data from various studies to provide a comprehensive overview of the effects of sports massage on performance recovery. The meta-analysis included randomized controlled trials, ensuring a rigorous examination of the existing literature. By synthesizing data from different populations and interventions, the study aimed to offer more robust insights into the overall impact of sports massage on athletes' recovery post exercise. Their analysis suggests that sports massage may indeed contribute to reduced DOMS, potentially allowing athletes to bounce back more efficiently from intense training sessions or competitions. For athletes in Chester, this could translate to a competitive edge, enabling them to maintain peak performance levels throughout their training regimens.

Performance Recovery Two: Beyond the Surface

An earlier review by Best et al. (2008) found that data from 17 case studies revealed inconsistent results. Those case studies that evaluated post-exercise function suggest that massage is not effective, whereas those studies that also evaluated the symptoms of DOMS did show some benefit. The data presented from 10 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) did, however, provide moderate evidence for the efficacy of massage therapy. As far as massage used post-exercise is concerned it will clearly reduce DOMS. The inconsistencies reported could very well relate to our opening comments.

Holistic Recovery: Beyond Physiological Measures

Hemmings and Smith (2000) took a holistic approach in their study, investigating the effects of massage on physiological restoration, perceived recovery, and repeated sports performance. Athletes were subjected to controlled exercise sessions, followed by varying massage interventions. Physiological markers, subjective reports of recovery, and subsequent athletic performance were meticulously measured. This multifaceted approach aimed to capture the broad spectrum of benefits associated with sports massage. The findings suggest that sports massage may also enhance an athlete's perception of recovery. This holistic approach aligns with the idea that mental and emotional well-being are integral components of overall athletic performance.

Injury Prevention: Understanding the Mechanics

Weerapong, Hume, and Kolt (2005) provide a detailed review of the mechanisms of massage and its effects on athletic performance, muscle recovery, and injury prevention. Their review underscores the findings that massage produces positive effects on recovery via psychological mechanisms. Post-exercise massage has also been shown to reduce the severity of muscle soreness (DOMS) but massage has no direct effects on muscle functional loss. The findings of this review are supported by a recent systematic analysis by Dakic, Toskic et al (2023). Their review of 114 research papers additionally found that in some studies positive muscle force and strength changed 48hrs after the massage was given – suggesting that the beneficial effect of sports massage can be delayed (a fact known well by Myokinetics therapists).

Dakic et al conclude that the majority of studies reviewed indicate reduction in pain and delayed onset muscle soreness and they surmise that these effects are probably correlated with the reduction of the level of creatine kinase enzyme and psychological mechanisms. In addition, massage treatment led to decreases in self-reported depression, stress, anxiety, the perception of fatigue and an increase in mood, relaxation, and the perception of recovery. Undoubtedly the psychological impact of sports massage coupled with its physiological effects have a synergistic effect that provide far-reaching positive benefits for the recipient.

Conclusion: Unlocking the Potential of Sports Massage in Chester

As the world of sports continues to evolve, athletes in Chester are embracing new and scientifically-backed approaches to enhance their performance and recovery. The findings from these studies suggest that sports massage could be a valuable tool in the athlete's toolkit, contributing to reduced DOMS, and perceptions of improved performance recovery, enhanced skeletal muscle recovery. It is also clear that there is a psychological component to the benefits of massage that invariably contribute to the beneficial effects of the treatments.

For athletes in Chester, integrating sports massage into your routine might prove to be a step towards optimizing your recovery, maintaining peak performance, and achieving new athletic heights. If you'd like to know more about our sports massage services you can check out our service description page here or you can get straight to booking your next treatment here.

List of Cited Research Articles:

Hilbert JE, Sforzo GA, Swensen T. The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. Br J Sports Med. 2003;37(1):72-75.

Poppendieck W, Wegmann M, Ferrauti A, Kellmann M, Pfeiffer M, Meyer T. Massage and performance recovery: a meta-analytical review. Sports Med. 2016;46(2):183-204.

Best TM, Hunter R, Wilcox A, Haq F. Effectiveness of sports massage for recovery of skeletal muscle from strenuous exercise. Clin J Sport Med. 2008;18(5):446-460.

Hemmings, B., & Smith, M. (2000). Effects of massage on physiological restoration, perceived recovery, and repeated sports performance. Br J Sports Med, 34(2), 109-114.

Weerapong P, Hume PA, Kolt GS. The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention. Sports Med. 2005;35(3):235-256.

Dakić M, Toskić L, Ilić V, Đurić S, Dopsaj M, Šimenko J. The Effects of Massage Therapy on Sport and Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports (Basel). 2023 Jun; 11(6): 110.

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