Whether it’s a New Years resolution or an awakening any day of the year, its a good day to decide to tame tension and stress. Chronic stress takes it’s toll on every organ and body system, including the heart and endocrine system, by repeatedly activating the well-known “fight-or-flight” response. The body can best heal and renew itself only when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, putting the body in “rest-and-relax” mode. Massage, acupuncture and bodywork trigger the parasympathetic, significantly reduce tension, heart rate, and blood pressure for a period, and they feel good! The long term effects of regular therapy are profound; better health, less pain, better movement, outlook and quality of life. That’s a goal worth toasting!
We recently saw a flyer given to competitors of the recent KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. This flyer, which gave useful inormation about the medical resources provided, dealing with weather, preventing hyponatremia and the dangers of pain relievers, then continued on to show an ubsubstantiated bias against the effectiveness of post-event massage.
The flyer, from the medical director (a physician) and the medical coordinator (an athletic trainer), states that “Post-event massage continues to be controversial. Most experts agree that a massage within the first 2 hours after the race does not prevent muscle soreness”. No sources or corroborating data were given.
We believe in the effectiveness of post-event massage for reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness, as well as restoring the athletes normal muscle, mental and metabolic function. This is from our own experiences from doing massage after dozens of events including every Lake Placid Ironman and Lake Placid Marathon as well as working with pro cycling teams and the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, and is also supported by research. The following article is an example.
Sports Massage – Post-Event
Copyright © 2009 Richard Lane
The purpose of a massage after a major event is simply to aid the athlete to recover from the activity. This is achieved by reducing post-exercise soreness, re-establishing full range of motion and enhancing blood flow to tight muscles. The length of recovery time from strenuous competition can be dramatically reduced with a good post-event massage. Studies have found that correctly applied massage in the first two hours after activity can be critical for reducing the effect of delayed onset muscle soreness (1). Although they could not detect any change in measured physiological variables, post-event massage did lower the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness. Post-event massage can also be employed after (heavy) training sessions as well as competition.
The primary goal of post-event massage is very similar to that of pre-event massage (2), namely promotion of circulation and to lengthen tight muscles. However, the difference is that the muscles are now in a state of congestion and fatigue following maximal effort and performance. Therefore the objective is to increase the athlete’s rate of recovery by decreasing soreness and fatigue, speeding up the removal of metabolic by-products and relieving the increased tone of the muscles. Please note that the delayed onset muscle soreness is not caused by lactic acid build-up as is commonly espoused. Current research suggests that the delayed soreness may be caused by
- microtrauma of the muscle fibres
- a micro-tearing of the fascia
- the pain-ischemia-pain cycle resulting from overuse, oedema and inflammation or
- a combination of all of these.
A post-event massage is typically administered for around 10 to 15 minutes. Even 5 minutes on the legs after a City to Surf type event is beneficial. It is certainly not a full-body massage. For example, a typical post-event leg routine might consist of:
- compressive effleurage to calm the nervous system
- compression for spreading muscle fibres and also enhancing blood flow
- petrissage for easing muscle tension and
- compressive effleurage as a finishing stroke to soothe.
Depending upon the circumstances, the therapist may consider that some gentle therapeutic stretching may be appropriate.
When performing post-event massage, the massage therapist is much more likely to encounter athletes that require first aid. During the massage the therapist should watch for cuts, scrapes, blisters, bruises and mild strains and sprains. However, it should be noted that, depending on the training of the therapist, providing first aid is generally not within the scope of practice for massage therapy. When a sports massage therapist suspects that an athlete has a problem, they should seek the help of a qualified medical staff member at the event.
Although most athletes carry out a warm-down routine after training sessions, they often fail to do so after competition because of exhaustion, elation or even disappointment. An effective post-event massage can help an athlete feel better immediately following a competition. Along with a big psychological lift, it can allow the athlete to recover mor quickly. Almost all athletes look forward to seeing massage therapists at an event because they know that they will enjoy a well-deserved post-event massage.
(1) “Massage decreases intensity of delayed soreness”. J.E. Hilbert, G.A. Sforzo and T. Swensen. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2003. Issue 37. pp72-75.
(2) “Sports Massage – Pre-Event”. R. Lane. http://www.innerwestmassage.com.au/sports_massage_pre_event.php
Richard Lane is a qualified remedial and sports massage therapist, with a mobile massage practice in Sydney’s Inner West (www.innerwestmassage.com.au). Health fund rebates. ATMS 13020. Phone 0421 410057
The bottom line is that there is no harm and usually alot of good that can come from getting a post event massage, particularly in the first 2 hours following the event. We suggest a post event routine of walking for 15 minutes, rehydration and some nutrition, immersing legs in cool water if available in hot conditions, changing into dry clothes and then going for massage. Listen to your body and congratulate yourself for a job well done!
People seeking Massage Therapy services on Craigslist and similar sites should be aware that up to now, many postings have been by unlicensed providers, which is illegal in New York and most other states, or have been advertising prostitution under the guise of massage. We advise people that only licensed practitioners are legally entitled to advertise using the word “massage” or “massage therapy”. This is to protect consumers and to assure that providers are proficient, ethical and legally accountable for treatments provided. Craigslist has to date resisted policing their listings or changing the categories, but the recent tragic events with the “Craigslist Killer” are putting new pressure on the service. Here’s a recent communique from the American Massage Therapy Association:
“May 13, 2009
AMTA Applauds Craigslist Decision
Calls for Protection of Massage Therapists
Evanston, IL – The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) views the decision by Craigslist to remove its ‘erotic services’ section as an opportunity to clarify for the public that prostitutes who claim to provide massage are not massage therapists. “The public and massage therapists have a right to know that advertising for massage should only be the right of massage therapists,” says Judy Stahl , AMTA President. “We hope this decision will ensure that massage is only advertised on Craigslist through its ‘therapeutic’ section and that any new ‘adult’ section will not allow posters to use terms related to massage therapy.” Most states regulate the massage therapy profession and restrict use of the term ‘massage’ in business and advertising to legally practicing massage therapists.
The recent publicity surrounding the murder of a call girl who called herself a masseuse on Craigslist has confused many people. Massage therapists have had clients and patients question their professionalism and raise concerns about them advertising their massage practices through Craigslist.
Unfortunately, prostitutes frequently claim to offer massage and use the term ‘masseuse’ to appear as legitimate therapists. While most massage practitioners prefer the term massage therapist, some still use the older term, rooted in European health traditions, of ‘masseuse’.
AMTA believes these terms related to massage should only be used by those with a legal and professional right to do so. The non-profit professional association wants the public to feel confident that anyone who claims to provide massage is a trained professional who practices legally. “We call on Craigslist, the media and other online services to respect massage therapists and to protect the public from misrepresentations of massage. And, we continue our support for the efforts of the state attorneys general to protect the public from inappropriate advertising,” says Stahl.
The American Massage Therapy Association is a nonprofit professional association of more than 58,000 members founded in 1943. AMTA professional members have demonstrated a level of skill and knowledge through education and/or testing and must meet continuing education requirements to retain membership. AMTA provides information about massage therapy to the public and works to improve the professional climate for massage therapists. It advocates fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states.”At Balanced Bodywork and Massage, we want to assure you that all of our practitioners have earned college degrees in Massage Therapy, are fully licensed by New York State and are in good legal standing.