Massage Therapy Web Page          

Allison Wells

                                                                        

 

Throughout the course of history, man has participated in sports.  Whether ranging from Augustus Caesar’s days as a gladiator in ancient Rome, to the modern day Olympics, sports have usually been held in high esteem.  Athletes must be in prime shape to reach their full potential, and are constantly experimenting with techniques to help them achieve such high standards.  Yet playing sports often comes with a fair amount of risk involved, from the slightest bruise to in very rare cases death.  For all these injuries that fall in between, there are a variety of surgeries and therapies, among other services offered, to help a patient heal from these sometimes disastrous ailments.  One popular method proposed today, and oftentimes even recommended, not only for injuries but both before and after vigorous exercise, is massage therapy for sports and related injuries.  Although this type of therapy might seem to be a newfangled idea, as one reputable web source noted, it has actually been traced to “virtually every civilization,” including the Egyptians, Romans, and ancient Chinese (http://danke.com/ Orthodoc/text.html).  Only with the occurrence of vast advances in technology and medicine has this practice become ‘second rate’ (http://danke.com/Orthodoc/text.html).  Recently, however, massage therapy has made a comeback, as the trend in holistic health has been climbing steadily. 

 

What is massage therapy?

The American Massage Therapy Association defines massage therapy as “a profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques, and may apply adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client (http://www.amtamassage.org/about/definitions.html).

 

What is the purpose of this treatment? How does massage therapy work?

The purpose of this therapy, as noted by one web cite, is to treat “muscular pain and dysfunction” (http:// danke.com/ Orthodoc / text.html).  In addition, this type of therapy “is based on the fact that the soft tissues-muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia-respond to touch” (http://danke.com/Orthodoc/text.html).  This type of touch that massage therapy provides is a unique way for a variety of people to relax, and prevent or ease their pain.

 

Are there certain types of massage therapy? What are they?

In athletes, therapeutic massage is used as a means of manipulating the body’s soft tissue elements (http://www.amtamassage.org / publications/sports-massage.htm#1).  It has been shown to moderate “the heart rate and blood flow…reduce muscle tension/spasm…and help relieve pain” (http://www.amtamassage.org/publications/sports-massage.htm#1).  There are three basic types of sports massage therapy that include maintenance massage, event massage, and rehabilitation massage.  Although massage should not be substituted for other, more common medical attention, it can be used accordingly as a way to prevent injury, alleviate pain and accelerate the healing process (http://www.amtamassage.org/publications/sports-massage.htm#1).

           

    

     In maintenance massage, an athlete’s target muscles are worked.  This increase in blood flow can hypothetically aid in the ensuing warm-up and activity (http://health.yahoo.com/health/Alternative_Medicine/Alternative_Therapies/Massage_Therapy/).  In addition, this type of massage applied before a strenuous workout may assist in the prevention of injury.  However, it is important to remember not to overwork oneself.  An overuse in the body’s “muscles from regular activity may lead to stresses on joints, ligaments, tendons, as well as the muscles themselves” (http://www.brianmac. demon. co. uk/massage.htm).  With the proper massage therapy, injury such as this may in fact be completely avoided.  The athlete may see “improve[d] range of motion and muscle flexibility” and will be on their way to a more comfortable and painless training program (http://www.amtamassage. org/publications/sports-massage.htm - 1).  

In the second category of athletic massage, therapy utilized after a strenuous workout has been revealed to lower the occurrence of muscle contractions (http://www.amtamassage.org/publications/sports-massage.htm - 1).  This is due to the fact that studies have shown that massage can “reduce the waste products (lactic and carbonic acid) that build up in muscles after exercise” (http://health.yahoo. com/ health/ Alternative_Medicine/Alternative_Therapies/Massage_Therapy/).  Athletes that train continuously and tirelessly work their bodies greatly benefit from such therapy.     

The rehabilitation process after suffering an injury can be a long and painful road back to recovery.  Certain aspects of massage therapy have been designed to hasten this course, and involve a number of applications that work the injured area.  One popular method is the trigger point massage, which tends to lower the occurrence of muscle spasms in the afflicted area.  When this is neglected, it is often difficult and sometimes painful to move the body.  In addition, another technique of sports massage is known as cross-fiber massage.  In this practice, the larger muscle groups are expanded and enlarged through applied friction.  In more specific cases, a deeper friction is employed “to reduce adhesions and help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process” (http://www. amtamassage.org/publications/sports-massage.htm - 1).  

                                                                                                    

How effective is this therapy? What claims are made in regards to massage therapy?

The claims made about massage therapy for sports certainly seem to add up.  They include augmenting the circulation of blood to muscles, “enhanc[ing] the immune system and…even reduc[ing] blood pressure” (http://yahoo.com/health/Alternative_ Medicine/ Alternative _ Therapies/Massage _ Therapy/).  While this data appears to be far fetched, there have been studies completed that support such assertions.   One such study, one of the first of its kind, revealed a significant decrease in the amount of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when a massage is administered after exercise.  This case of muscle soreness typically arises “between 8 and 24 hours after exercise, peaks at around 48 hours, and dissipates over the course of a few days” (Smith 93).  In this study, a group of fourteen healthy males were asked to strenuously exercise using their upper arms.  Two hours later, seven of these participants were given a thirty-minute massage by a licensed physical therapist, while the remaining seven rested (Smith 95).  The results clearly showed a decrease in the occurrence of DOMS for those given a massage (Smith 96).     In addition, the study also tested the participants for levels of neutrophils and creatine kinase (CK) through blood work taken repeatedly for every half hour for eight hours and once every day afterwards by an IV (Smith 95).  Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that primarily fight off bacterial infections and aid in the anti-inflammatory process.  Creatine kinase is a waste product produced by the kidneys that may indicate muscle injury.  The study revealed a decrease in the level of CK and an extended amount of neutrophils, both positive aspects in the medical field (Smith 93).   Thus, the athletes that received massages had a smaller amount of indicators of muscle injuries and fewer white blood cells due to a reduced amount of inflamed muscles.  Another similar study also revealed this same effect in regards to CK levels in massage given after exercise (Callaghan 30).  While massage cannot completely rid the body of pain associated with exercise, this data may prove that it reduces this pain and brings some comfort to an aching body.  

In contrast to such studies, another was performed on athletes ten minutes prior to exercise.  Ten healthy males were put into either the control group, which received no massage, or the “treatment group” which did receive the massage (Callaghan 31).  Certain factors were measured, including blood pressure, cardiac output, heart rate, and lactic acid (Callaghan 31).   Lactic acid is a metabolism bi-product that, when occurring in high levels, indicates a lack of oxygen in the body’s tissues.  Massage had been thought to reduce such a waste product when used prior to exercise.  However, in this study massage had no such affect on these statistics.  The treatment group performed to the same caliber as the control group (Callaghan 31).  It appears that most studies done concerning pre-event massage in exercise come away with the same conclusion: massage has no real effect regarding an athlete’s performance. 

                                          

There have been reports that massage can enhance the immune system, in addition to circulating the blood better to a person’s injuries  (http://health.yahoo.com /health/ Alternative _ Medicine / Alternative_ Therapies /Massage_Therapy/).  There was not however, significant data or studies found to support such claims for sports massage therapies, only allegations of such remarkable benefits.   Actual clients of massage therapists have extraordinary testimonials discussing how wonderful massage feels.  Dr. Leland B. Housman of San Diego, California, “personally states that [his therapist] has on multiple occasions helped [him] to continue to compete at high levels in [his] sporting activities” (http://www.sandiego-massage.com/testimonials.htm).  The majority of people who are massaged during times of stress or pain do come away with a positive attitude.  There are, on the other hand, people who should keep away from massage therapy.  Exclusion criteria involve those who recently underwent surgery, those with “ an infectious skin disease…directly over bruises, inflamed or infected injuries…or at the sites of recent fractures or sprains” (http://health.yahoo.com/health/ Alternative_ Medicine/Alternative_Therapies/Massage_Therapy/). 

           

Who is presenting this information, and why?

The people responsible for presenting this information involve a variety of doctors, therapists and organizations.  The American Massage Therapy Association has a large website with a plethora of information available for anyone interested in learning more about massage, how to become a massage therapist, or where to find the best therapist in one’s area.  Other therapists have created their own sources online to provide interested people with facts about the services they offer and, in some cases, a positive feedback section concerning themselves or their business.  These sources mainly pertain to those who are curious about the field or interested in the therapy as a way to relax or rehabilitate. 

            In conclusion, massage therapy, like many other forms of alternative medicine, is still working its ‘kinks’ out.  More studies need to be completed involving the advantages and disadvantages concerning its use in sports.  The application of “manual soft tissue manipulation” can seemingly provide a relaxing way for an athlete to warm-up or cool down, or recover from an injury in a timelier manner.  Yet tests done on such claims reveal both positive and negative aspects.  Massage done before exercise has no real effect on the athlete’s performance, while massage given following exercise do reduce some discomfort and waste products produced by the body.   If interested, there are hundreds of businesses and rehabilitation clinics offering valuable information discussing massage therapy as a resource for stress or pain. 

 

References

1.) “AMTA Definition of Massage Therapy.” http://www.amtamassage.org/about/definitions.html

2.)  Callaghan, Michael J.  “The Role of Massage in the Management of the Athlete: a Review.”  British Journal of Sports Medicine. 27. 1: 1993.

3.)  “General Information about Massage Therapy.”  http://danke.com/Orthodoc/text.html

4.)  “Massage Extraordinaire.” http://www.sandiego-massage.com/testimonials.htm

5.)  Smith, Lucille L., PhD. et al.  “The Effects of Athletic Massage on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, Creatine Kinase, and Neutrophil Count: A Preliminary Report.”  Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.  19. 2 (1994): 93-98.                        

6.) “Sports Massage.”  http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/massage.htm

7.) “Sports Massage: The Athlete’s and Trainer’s Edge.” http://www.Amtamassage.org/publications/sports_massage.htm#1

8.) “Yahoo! Health-Alternative Therapies.”  http://health.yahoo.com/Alternative_Medicine/Alternative_Therapies/Massage_Therapy

 

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