What is massage and why should you choose to have a massage?
There are many types of massage that each affect the body differently.
This article is about deep tissue and sports massage.
Tense muscles can cause headaches, back pain, problems with walking, etc.
Deep tissue massage works on the tense area of the muscle and fascia, so it can relax again and the nutrients and waste materials can run freely.
If a muscle is very tensed, it may result in the muscle becoming weak, because it will always be in a stretched position. The muscles around the weak muscle will compensate and work in a way they are not made to do. In turn, the muscles around those muscles start to compensate….and so on. Can you see what happens?
For example, if the large thigh muscle (rectus femuris), the abductors and psoas mayor are tensed, the glute muscles (gluteus maximus and gluteus medium) will be affected. The muscles around the glutes will compensate for lack of strength and become sore.
This means that an excessively stretched thigh muscle can result in, for example, lower back and shoulder pain.
It would be logical to think that if the glutes are weak, then we can just train them – right?
It’s not that simple. Now that those other muscles have taken over the work from the glutes, training of this muscle will not help all that much, as it is now the other muscles that do the work. Therefore, a workout in this area will only mean that the compensating muscles will work even harder than before and become even more overworked and sore.
So what can you do?
You need to get the muscles that started it all to relax. In this example, the big thigh muscle, the abductors and psoas mayor. Then the weak muscle will start to perform again.
The tense muscles need to be made more flexible. This can be done by means of stretching and massage, preferably a mix of both. Deep tissue / sports massage warms up the muscle and helps it to relax, then you can slowly start stretching your muscles. When the tensed muscles have returned to their normal tension, you can start training the other muscles. They have most likely slowly started to grow stronger and take over their jobs again.
It’s not easy to do research on how and why massage works, as it can be difficult to judge whether the person who is receiving massage feels an improvement because he believes in it (placebo effect), or whether there is an actual improvement.
However, a few tests have been done where different hormones and neurotransmitters have been measured before and after massage. These studies show that massage can reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol by up to 53%, and increase the level of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, that can help with depression.
By stimulating the production of endorphins, massage can reduce pain.
Studies have shown that one hour of massage therapy a week can help people with osteoarthritis in knees by significantly reducing the pain. This also applies to people with chronic low back pain, which results in a better quality of life for these people.
For people with fibromyalgia, massage can reduce the pain and anxiety level, improve sleep quality and increase the quality of life.
There are studies indicating that massage therapy reduces inflammation caused by hard muscular stress during exercise.
For athletes, a deep tissue massage once a week and up to 3 days before a competition can improve performance. The massage can help keep the muscles in shape, so that oxygen and nutrients can get to where they are needed. A lighter massage can be used during warming up and shortly after the competition.
For people working in an office and others who spend a lot of time seated, massage can help relax the muscles that are shortened by sitting down too much, e.g. the hip flexors. If the shortened and tense muscles are allowed to stay in this condition, it can result in back and shoulder pain.
So deep tissue massage and sports massage is not only for professional athletes.