The Benefits Of Sports Massage For MMA
The Benefits Of Massage And Sports Massage
One of the hardest parts of being a sports therapist is educating people on the benefits of massage.
People still think of ‘massage parlors’ and ‘extras’ when I bring up this subject, or males think it effeminate to have another male give massage treatment to them.
Massage is by no means effeminate. I have massaged wrestlers and rugby players weighing over 240 pounds-try calling these people effeminate to their faces! Regular massage treatment can help keep an athlete where they should be on the mat/ring/dojo, etc.
Many people put off seeing a therapist until it is too late-preferring to train through nagging injuries, thinking, “no pain, no gain.” More often than not, the aches will disappear when they are fully warmed up and so they think they are fine. The next day after training (and not cooling down), the muscles are a little bit tighter and painful but still they carry on.
Until one night in the dojo, when they are performing a routine punch or kick, twang goes their shoulder/knee joint and they are writhing on the floor in pain, tendons and ligaments in tatters. A chronic injury has taken place that could have been prevented if people were educated about rest and treatment.
Think of rest and massage as part of the yin/yang cycle-one wouldn’t drive a car 50,000 miles without stopping to check the oil, brakes, etc. The car would fall into a state of disrepair very quickly. So why do we persist in damaging the most important ‘vehicle’ we will ever have, our own body (after all, it also gets us from point A to point Z)?
We need our bodies fit and healthy to help us through old age, not hobbling about on arthritic joints brought on by poor training methods. Instructors have a large responsibility in this area. I still see people wasting their money on very dubious warm-ups and even poorer cool-downs.
Massage is just one area of recuperation from training – one that I feel gives the best results in both body and spirit as the muscles are stretched more thoroughly than your post-training stretch-off, with the person feeling an increased reduction in pain and stress and are ‘chilled out’ so to speak.
Muscles enable the body to maintain posture and the contraction of skeletal muscles holds the body in stationary positions such as sitting or standing. Once a skeletal muscle or a group of skeletal muscles is continuously stimulated for an extended period (groundwork), the strength of contractions becomes steadily weaker until the muscle no longer responds.
This is known as muscle fatigue. At this stage injury can, or will, occur. Tight muscles also create postural imbalances, affect breathing, cause limb length discrepancies, and contribute to chronic injuries. Through massage, a therapist can feel changes in muscle structure through their hands and can adapt the treatment as required.
Receiving regular massage treatment and REST, that dreaded four-letter word, can drastically reduce the accumulation of aches and pains that many sportsmen seem to accept as normal due to their build-up!
There are two major types of effects of massage/sports massage – MECHANICAL and REFLECTOR.
Mechanical: the hands create heat with the tissue surface and the movement between various layers of skin cause friction. Capillaries and arteries are opened through the pumping effect of massage, which increases pressure in the vessels in front of the stroke of the venous (vein) and lymphatic systems (lymph fluid bathes muscle tissue and removes certain waste products).
This in turn creates a vacuum in those vessels behind the stroke and these pressure changes assist fluid flow making room for nutrient-rich fluids and improved arterial blood supply. Tight muscles restrict circulation in muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments; blood is rich in oxygen and other nutrients, therefore the pumping effect of massage is essential to restore normal tissue condition.
Deep stroking techniques cause increased localized pressure allowing tissue pores to open thus improving the removal of our arch enemy LACTIC ACID, which in turn allows oxygenated fluids to be more easily absorbed.
Massage also stretches muscle and other tissue in a way that conventional methods fail to reach. Normal stretching draws muscle attachments away, lengthening fibers and bringing muscle bundles closer together.
Massage pulls the bundles longitudinally AND transversely (across the direction the fibers run in) which stretches and moves apart the bundles, improving circulation and breaking down adhesions between the bundles. With normal stretching, the less tense areas give way first, leaving the tighter and deeper areas less stretched; massage can stretch a muscle systematically as well as specific structures like fascia which surrounds the muscle, relieving muscle tension.
Scar tissue may be present in muscles, tendons, and ligaments due to past injuries, poor cooldowns, and/or the build-up of overuse injuries, leading to tension and inflexibility. Adhesions occur where fibrous tissue causes different tissues to stick together due to inflammation and microtrauma, again restricting movement.
Deep friction massage is used to break down these culprits, which aids the return of normal tissue tension and range of movement.
Kneading soft tissues help to pull the elastic structures nearing their optimal length in all directions, maintaining elasticity in tissues that are placed under great stress in certain positions (elbow joint in juji-gatame) and also in excessive and long-standing isometric contractions (neck muscles resisting a choke/strangle).
Reflectory: Massage increases blood flow through the treated part, opening arterioles and capillaries, and improving fluid exchange to the tissues. Deep massage creates a dilation of the vessels, which brings a greater volume of fluid to the muscle. Hard training leads to muscle tension restricting circulation and depriving the tissues of oxygen.
Metabolic waste products accumulate in these tissues causing pain and tenderness during normal movement. Although this will go when we warm up, the pain will return twice as bad the next day. Massage reduces pain by stimulating reflexes, which affect the central nervous system by releasing endorphins that abolish pain sensations in the brain, preventing pain impulses from going beyond the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.
Massage also stimulates mechanoreceptors that sense touch, pressure, tissue length, movement, and warmth in muscle and other tissues. Reflex pathways via the central nervous system transmit the stimulus and induce relaxation through efferent pathways to the muscle (efferent nerves send impulses AWAY from the brain and spinal cord).
General relaxation is best achieved when a large body area is treated; hence full-body massages are considered the best treatment. The autonomous nervous system transmits impulses from the central nervous system to the muscles.
When this system becomes overactive, irritating mechanoreceptors, massage helps to reduce this tension, and studies have shown that blood pressure, migraines, and hyperventilation have all decreased in severity.
High and low blood pressure, fractures/sprains, and other conditions requiring medical treatment
- Thrombosis severe bruising
- Spastic conditions cuts/abrasions
- Embolism swellings
- Recent operations dysfunctions of nervous systems
- Epilepsy recent hemorrhage
- Skin disorders in abdominal areas in pregnant women
- Diabetes when treatment may affect a medical condition
So there you have it-I think you’ll now find that there’s a lot more to massage than you think! Armed with this knowledge, you can all make a difference to your injury occurrence/re-occurrence rate and more importantly, your whole way of life.