Jeremy Waite


News and advice

What does a regular Sports Massage actually do to the body?

Most people are aware that a massage leaves them feeling good and re-energised, but they are often not actually aware of the physical intricacies of what happens during a massage.

On a broad level, massage is excellent at improving circulation which is beneficial to all the cells of the body as blood is flushed through the system. The blood brings all the nutrients to each cell allowing them to repair themselves as well as encouraging growth.

Whilst the body’s circulation will work naturally, massage particularly helps the blood fight gravity in the limbs – for this reason massage strokes are always carried out towards the heart. This has the dual benefit of dragging blood along the veins with the vacuum formed behind each stroke being filled by more blood, as well as not damaging the delicate one-way valves which pull blood back towards the heart.

This action allows the cells to re-generate more swiftly after they have been damaged and so muscles can be stronger and re-built again after exercise, ready for the next challenge.

Similarly to assisting blood–flow, a good deep tissue massage will also assist the lymphatic flow through the body. The lymphatic vessels are vital for removing excess interstitial fluid (the fluid in and around each cell) and taking it away to the lymph nodes where all the toxins are removed and the fluid is then re-introduced to the blood supply.

This interstitial fluid is often found in excess as a result of tissue damage or after significant exercise which explains why massage can assist so much in a sports person’s recovery. This is one of the primary reasons that massage is such a virtuous element within a training cycle, as an athlete can train hard and then use massage to assist recovery and be able to train hard again at an earlier date.

Massage is also excellent for optimising flexibility of tissues in the body and carried out regularly (particularly in conjunction with a stretching routine), will allow the individual to optimise their body’s range of movement both within exercise and the normal aspects of our daily lives. The massage strokes - both longitudinal (with the ‘grain’ of the muscles) and transverse (across the ‘grain’) – stretch the tissues on a cellular level which will allow increased flexibility for the tissues at a full muscle level.

This is important as it allows people to optimise their body’s abilities, be it in sport or elsewhere in life, as well as decrease the risk of an injury where a lack of flexibility in one area of the body causes another area to over-work in a compensatory manner. Nearly all of us must have stood up after a long stint at a desk or sitting in one position and felt the need to stretch arms, legs or backs – it is this natural desire of the body to have its tissues in a flexible state that a regular massage will help to make reality.

In addition there are benefits for the nervous system which occur as a result of regular massage. The stimulation of the nerve receptors within the tissues encourages them to relax further which will take tension out of the muscles and the nervous system as a whole. This is important as mental tension can lead to physical stress (tight shoulders particularly appear in people who feel under pressure) and so the benefits to the nervous system will lead to both relaxed muscles and a relaxed mind. It is for this reason that clients will often report a feeling of general well being after massage as well as the physical benefits to their body.

In a future article I will look at what massage actually does to the body when used as part of an individual’s rehabilitation from injury.

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Providing sports and remedial massage as well as training and rehabilitation advice throughout Berkshire and Oxfordshire and especially to clients in Streatley, Goring, Pangbourne, Wallingford and Reading.

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