Massage Therapy Increases Athletic Performance Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2367 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Anatomy

Massage Therapy for Athletic Performance

Massage Therapy and its Beginnings


Sports Medicine


Origin, Three Forms

Spa Treatments

Aspects of Excellent Athletic Performance

Massage therapy and its Beginnings

Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, aimed at normalizing these tissues (Greene). It consists of manual techniques of applying fixed or movable pressure, holding or causing body movement. It is one of the oldest health care practices, dating back to more than 4,000 years as evidenced by Chinese medical records..Western health care records, at least since the time of Hippocrates in the fourth century, referred to it. Hippocrates is the Father of Medicine. The origin of modern, scientific massage therapy is traced to Per Henrik Ling, a Swede, in the 18th century. Ling developed an integrate system of massage and active and passive exercises. He put up the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute in Sweden in 1813 to teach his methods. The therapy was introduced in the United States in the 1850s by New York physician-brothers, George and Charles Taylor, who trained in Sweden. Two Swedish physicians, Dr. Baron Nils Posse and Dr. Hartwig Nissen, opened and operated the first massage therapy clinics in Boston and in Washington DC after the Civil War. Interest in the therapy was inconstant until the 60s when it was revived as a tool for relaxation, communication and alternative healing. It is now one of the most popular healing techniques used by both conventional and alternative, medical practitioners Greene).


Massage therapy has been known to affect blood circulation and the flow of blood and lymph; reduce muscle tension or flaccidity; stimulate or sedate the nervous system; and enhance tissue healing (Greene). The benefits derived include reduction of muscle tension and stiffness, relief of muscle spasms, greater flexibility and range of motion, increased ease and efficiency of movement, release of stress and improved breathing, improved blood circulation and lymph movement, relief of tension, faster healing of tissues, and reduction of pain and swelling in these injuries. It also reduces the formation of excessive scar tissue after soft tissue injury, enhances health and skin, improves posture by altering tension patterns, and reduces stress and anxiety. It increases an awareness of the connectedness of the mind and the body, promotes a relaxed mental state and, in general, creates a feeling of well-being. Its documented clinical benefits include the reduction of anxiety, improvement of pulmonary function in young asthma patients, the reduction of emotional distress in patients suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease, weight increase and improved motor development of premature infants, and possibly, an enhancement of the immune system. Massage therapy has had demonstrated positive effects on allergies, anxiety and stress, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and similar repetitive motion injuries, chronic and temporary pain, circulation disorders, depression, digestive disorders, tension headache, insomnia, myofascial pain, sports injuries and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The hands are most frequently used in massage therapy. But the forearms, elbows and even the feet are also used when a particular effect is desired. Its basic philosophy the help the body in its own ability to heal itself, achieve or increase health and well-being. Touch is its basic medium (Greene). Because it fosters greater flexibility and range of motion, increased ease and efficiency of movement, massage therapy enhances athletic performance.

Sports Massage

There are more than 160 kinds and types of bodywork sub-therapies under the broad category of massage therapy (Crabtree 1997). One of these is sports massage. Sports massage derived from the traditional Swedish massage. It puts therapy back to its origin, which is exercise and movement. Athletes and others who want to optimize performance use this type of massage before, during and after a sports activity or event. Sports massage aims at stimulating muscles and increasing their ability to absorb nutrients, reducing or eliminating stress or muscle injury, and helping the body and muscles eliminate toxins and accumulation of waste because of exertion (Crabtree).

Experts said that massage has been gaining recognition as an authentic relief for physical and mental strain (Starling 2000). Superstar athletes like Michael Jordan, have been using massage to work his tired muscles out. Many observed that more men were also coming to massage clinics and parlors for treatment of their muscles strained in some sports (Starling). Most bodybuilders and athlete use sports massage to warm up, improvement flexibility and performance and treat or prevent injuries (Elliott 2006). New research suggested that massage before exercise or competition could actually decrease muscle strength. This research was conducted on 10 male volunteers who performed leg extensions after 30 minutes of resting or receiving lower-limb massage. The volunteers said that the leg massage significantly decreased their leg extension strength. The findings indicated that users of sports massage should adjust their massage to their workout schedule. Another study, on the other hand, found that those who used Swedish massage on their hamstrings after negative-rep leg curls experienced much reduced pain and discomfort two days later. The message was that sports massage therapy relaxes muscle fibers and improves circulation. It allows the blood to send more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles where these nutrients and oxygen are converted into energy. Massage also eliminates waste products and drains the lymph system. Other techniques for bodybuilders are the ayurvedic massage, deep-tissue massage, and massotherapy. Ayurvedic massage helps restore energy balance. Deep-tissue massage uses slow strokes, direct pressure or friction across the muscles through the use of fingers, thumbs or elbows. It aims at reaching the fascia beneath the surface muscles. Massotherapy works with muscles. It improves circulation and manages pain. Myofascial release when the muscles become tight, cause pain and restrict the range of motion. Myofascial release aims at relaxing the fascia by applying gentle pressure. Orthopedic massage, on the other hand, combines many massage techniques to treat pain and soft-tissue injury. It focuses on injury assessment and rehabilitation. It emphasizes the importance of selecting the appropriate method to treat the injury (Elliott).

Sports massage helps athletes develop greater endurance, muscle strength and better performance by decreasing stress-injury-induced physical breakdown (Cates 1998). The rule is that, after an athletic event, a massage should be limited to 15 to 30 minutes. Tired muscles are more susceptible to injury and damage for the first 24 to 48 hours after the strenuous activity. Longer events should be followed by shorter massages. Sports physicians said that massage therapy could help relieve muscle spasm, facilitate stretching, and improve flexibility to prevent future injuries (Cates).


Sports massage addresses specific injured body parts in order to improve performance and hasten recovery (Calechman 2001). Studies showed that massage helps athletes mentally and physically. A study conducted in 2000 from the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that the combination of massage therapy and activity would benefit athletes. Unlike other types of massage therapy, sports massage is not a relaxation technique. It involves compression and deep pressure rather than a full-body rubdown. The sports therapist uses finger motions to warm up and manipulate muscle fibers. Deep friction can be painful when it releases tightened muscles to help the healing of an injury. It may also incorporate stretching. The therapist uses creams or lotions to reduce friction. Typical sports massage treatments lat from 14 minutes thrice to four times a week for acute problems. It may also be used from 25 to 60 minutes once a week for chronic injuries. The cost per session is between $50 and $129 (Calechman).

Origin, Three Forms

Sports massage specifically aims at preventing injuries, preparing the body for athletic activity and maintaining it in optimal condition, and helping athletes recover from workouts (Davidson 2001). Its three forms are pre-event, post-event and maintenance massage. Sports massage was first used by the ancient Greeks and Romans in combination with exercise in their athletic training. Asian peoples later created their own forms for dancers and students of martial arts. It developed as a formal practice in the Soviet Union and Communist bloc countries in the 60s. Soviet teams were the first to keep a massage therapist with them in their travel for their athletes. The concept then reached Europe and the United States through sports and cultural events and exchanges in the 70s. It was eventually accepted and incorporated into the training regimen. The first to do so were the professional athletes, followed by college and then amateur athletes. Sports massage is a recognized specialty of the American Massage Therapy Association or AMTA (Davidson).

Pre-event sports massage is performed to prevent serious athletic injury (Davidson 2001). It aims at warming the muscles up, stretching them and making them flexible for optimal athletic performance. This stage stimulates blood flow and flow of nutrients to the muscles, helps reduce muscle tension, loosens up the muscles, and creates an overall psychological sense of readiness in the athlete. Post-event sports massage helps reduce the swelling caused by micro-traumas. It looses up tired, stiff muscles, helps keep flexibility, promotes blood flow to the muscles in order to eliminate lactic… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Massage Therapy Increases Athletic Performance.  (2007, April 30).  Retrieved January 20, 2019, from

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