When you work out, your muscles tear. This is a good thing — the torn fibers release proteins called growth factors that help the muscle grow back stronger and repair itself faster. Recovery is just as important as the workout itself for seeing results from your efforts. The process of getting ready to work out again after a workout can be challenging, particularly if you’re sore or have strained muscles.
Massage has become an increasingly popular way to speed up recovery from exercise and soothe tired muscles.
The process of rebuilding your muscles after a workout is known as muscle recovery. Working out also can place stress on the body’s joints and soft tissues. Massage has long been associated with reducing stress and helping the body recover from workouts or other physical activities.
- Is massage really good for recovery?
- And what does that mean for you as a fitness enthusiast?
Read on to learn more about how massage helps with muscle recovery and some tips for incorporating it into your fitness routine.
Does Massaging Sore Muscles Help Recovery?
Whether or not massaging sore muscles helps recovery depends on the reason behind their soreness. If you’re sore because you’ve pushed your muscles to their breaking point, that’s a sign you need to scale back your workout. If you continue exercising in this case, you might further damage your muscles and extend your recovery time. If you have knots in your muscles that are causing or contributing to your soreness, massage can certainly help. It can break up these knots and improve blood flow to the area, which can reduce pain and speed up recovery.
Why is Massage Effective for Muscle Recovery?
To understand why massage is effective for muscle recovery, you have to know a little about muscle tissue. We have three types of muscle fibers: slow twitch, fast twitch, and super fast twitch. Slow twitch is for endurance activities and is great for long-term activities like running. Fast twitch is for high-intensity activities such as sprinting. Super fast twitch is for short bursts of activity such as lifting heavy weights. The muscle fibers are broken down during exercise, then they rebuild themselves stronger. Blood flow is essential to this process, bringing the nutrients needed to rebuild the muscles and remove toxins.
Massage has many benefits, but its effectiveness for muscle recovery has to do with three key factors: increased blood flow, the release of stress and healing chemicals, and improved tissue (fascial) integrity.
1. Increased blood flow - When you massage a muscle, you increase blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow means more oxygen, nutrients, and other goodies are delivered to the muscles. This can help relieve soreness, improve recovery, and help you avoid injuries.
2. The release of healing chemicals - Massage also releases chemicals that help with healing, such as serotonin, dopamine, and nitric oxide. In fact, there’s some evidence that massage is as effective as certain medications in treating certain conditions.
3. Improved tissue (fascial) integrity - Massage also helps with the integrity of the muscle tissue itself. This can lead to reduced risk of injuries, particularly overuse injuries, and better performance.
Massage works by increasing blood flow to muscles. When you massage a muscle, the increase in blood flow carries nutrients to the area and removes toxins. This can reduce muscle pain, improve flexibility and help muscles recover faster, which can help you get back to exercising sooner.
How Does Massage Help With Muscle Recovery?
When you massage a muscle, you increase blood flow to that area and break up adhesions that reduce blood flow. This extra blood flow is essential for muscle recovery.
- Break Up Toxins - When you exercise you create waste products that build up in your muscles. This is why your muscles feel sore the day after a hard workout. Massage helps break down toxins in the muscles, which can ease post-workout muscle pain.
- Break-Up Knots - You can develop knots in your muscles due to stress and poor posture. These knots can also happen after intense exercise. Massage helps break up these knots and improve circulation to the muscles. Break up knots and improve circulation, and you can reduce pain and stiffness.
- Reduce Inflammation - Massage can also help reduce inflammation in muscles, which can further speed up recovery.
When you massage a muscle, you break up knots in the muscle fibers. These knots are common after an intense workout when your muscles are sore. They can prevent blood flow and make your muscles feel stiff and painful. Massage can also break down lactic acid and other waste byproducts that build up in the muscles during exercise. These chemicals can make muscles feel stiff and sore.
The Benefits of Massage for Muscle Recovery
Massage is fantastic for general muscle recovery, but what are the specific benefits of massage for muscle recovery? Let’s take a look at some of the major benefits:
1. Soothing - The most basic benefit of massage for post-workout recovery is that it feels really, really good. It can be relaxing and soothing, which can help you wind down after a long day of work or exercise.
2. Improves Range of Motion - Massage can improve flexibility and increase your range of motion when you’re recovering from injury. This can help you get back to exercising more quickly.
3. Reduces Pain - Massage can help reduce muscle pain, which is crucial for speeding up recovery.
4. Speeds Up Healing - Massage can speed up the healing process and help you get back to exercising sooner.
5. Reduced Muscle Soreness - Sore muscles are a normal part of working out and exercising. But they don’t have to last long. Massage can help reduce muscle soreness, particularly after high-intensity workouts.
6. Reduced Risk of Injury - Working out is a great way to stay healthy, but it also puts your body at risk for injuries. Massage can help reduce the risk of injuries, particularly with overuse injuries.
7. Improved Blood Flow - Better blood flow can help speed up the recovery process and reduce muscle soreness. It can also help prevent injuries.
8. Improved Sleep - Working out is a great way to get a good night’s sleep. But sore muscles can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Massage can help reduce muscle soreness and improve sleep quality.
9. Improved Performance - When your muscles are less sore, you can perform better during workouts.
How to Use Massage to Speed Up Muscle Recovery?
A massage can help with muscle recovery, but it’s important to know how to do it properly. Always seek the advice of a massage therapist with experience in treating athletes. In order to get the most out of your massage, it’s important to prepare before you go to the massage therapist. Take a hot shower or bath to open up your pores, then ice any areas that are particularly stiff or swollen.
- Warm-Up - When you arrive at the massage therapist’s office, start your massage with a warm-up. This can help loosen up your muscles even more.
- Set Realistic Expectations - You can use massage to speed up recovery, but don’t expect it to eliminate all of your soreness. You can expect a massage to reduce soreness and improve flexibility and range of motion, but muscle pain can linger for a few days after a hard workout.
Which Muscle Groups Benefit From Massage?
Fortunately, pretty much every muscle group can benefit from massage. However, there are a few muscle groups that stand out when it comes to post-workout massage. These include:
1. Quadriceps - The quadriceps are the muscles in the front of the thighs. This is the largest muscle group in the body, so it’s prone to muscle tension and injury.
2. Calves - The calves are also prone to muscle tension and soreness.
3. Glutes - If you’re someone who exercises heavily, you might find that your glutes are really sore after a long workout.
4. Torso and back - The muscles in your back and torso are the largest group of muscles in your body and very often the source of post-workout pain. They’re also some of the best muscles for massage — particularly for managing mental stress.
5. Legs - Thigh muscles can be particularly challenging to massage on your own. - Shoulders - Shoulder muscles are susceptible to tightness and overuse.
6. Arms - Massaging your triceps, biceps, and forearms can help to improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury while lifting weights.
7. Hands and feet - While hands and feet aren’t technically part of your muscles, they can be difficult to massage on your own and can benefit greatly from massage.
What is the Best Massage for Muscle Recovery?
There are a few types of massage that can help with muscle recovery. The best massage for muscle recovery depends on the type of massage you like best.
1. Swedish Massage - Swedish massage is great for general muscle recovery. It’s particularly helpful for sore muscles and tense areas. Swedish massage is a lighter massage that focuses on increasing blood flow.
2. Deep Tissue Massage - Deep tissue massage targets tense muscles that are particularly sore. This type of massage works better for stiff, sore muscles.
3. Sports Massage - If you’re sore from exercise, you might benefit from a sports massage. This type of massage is geared toward athletes and can help speed up recovery.
As with any massage, it’s important to talk to your massage therapist about your expectations, and what you hope to get out of the experience as well as what is the best way to recover from sore muscle. You may also have some specific needs related to the muscles you’re trying to target.
- Duration - Most experts recommend a massage between 15 and 30 minutes in length.
- Pressure - The amount of pressure you’re comfortable with can vary depending on your goals and the type of massage.
- Technique - Different massage techniques can focus on different areas. The right one for you depends on what you want to get out of the experience.
Why Does Massaging Sore Muscles Hurt?
Massaging sore muscles can hurt — does that mean you should skip the massage? Not at all. The pain during a massage is due to blood flow and toxins moving through the muscles. This is a good thing — it means that your massage is working. The pain should go away fairly quickly, but if it doesn’t, you should probably stop the massage. If your muscles are still sore after the massage, it might help to ice them.
If you’ve ever tried to massage a really sore muscle, you’ve probably expected it to hurt. After all, massage is designed to work out and break down tissue.
However, when you’re massaging a particularly sore muscle, you may find that the pain is significantly more intense than usual. The reasons for this vary depending on the type of muscle soreness you’re experiencing. If you’ve experienced a muscle strain or tear, a massage may cause more pain. However, if you’re experiencing the type of soreness that often accompanies poor sleep, your muscles may just be extra sensitive.
Tips for a More Effective Massage
Making a few adjustments to your massage can help you get even more out of it. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your massage:
1. Be open with your therapist - Be open and honest with your massage therapist. Let them know where you’re sore, where you feel knots, and how often you exercise. This can help them to tailor the massage to your specific needs.
2. Stay hydrated - When you’re getting a massage, you don’t want to get dehydrated. Make sure to stay hydrated when you’re getting a massage by drinking lots of water before and after your appointment.
3. Wear comfortable clothing - Don’t show up to your massage wearing something that’s going to restrict your movement or be uncomfortable to remove. Wear loose, comfortable clothing so you can get the most out of the massage.
4. Warm up before you start your massage - The warm compress will also help increase blood flow to the muscles, aiding in the process of bringing more nutrients to the muscles.
5. Focus on your breathing - You can help yourself relax even more by focusing on your breaths as you’re being massaged.
6. Make it a full-body massage - If you’re targeting a specific area, such as your calves or hamstrings, it may help to stretch out the rest of your body while you’re at it.
7. When you’re done with the massage, stretch the muscles again - This will help keep the blood flowing, and your muscles will be more receptive to the nutrients brought in from the massage.
8. Be mindful of how long you’re massaging for - While massage is a great recovery tool, it’s easy to overdo it, particularly if you’re sore.
9. Work on your breathing again - As you go throughout the day, try to be mindful of your breathing. This will help keep your muscles relaxed as they continue to heal.
Mixing Massage With Other Recovery Tools
While massaging sore muscles will help with recovery, you’ll get even more benefits when you combine it with other recovery tools like stretching, foam rolling, and massage gun. Stretching is a great way to improve flexibility and reduce soreness after exercise. A foam roller can help you with self-myofascial release, which is a type of stretching that can break up adhesions and knots in your muscles and speed up recovery. Combining massage with other recovery tools can really help you get the most out of your post-workout recovery.
For example, taping a strained muscle before a massage can help the massage be more effective. Exercising while you’re still sore can slow down your recovery, so it’s a good idea to mix in some extra rest days. You can do some light stretching before you work out again as long as you don’t push yourself too hard.
Also, if you’re working out multiple times a week, it’s a good idea to schedule your massages for the end of your workouts, before you cool down and stretch. This can help keep your muscles warm and relaxed for a longer period of time.
Massage is one of the best recovery methods you can use after a tough workout. It can reduce muscle soreness, swelling, and inflammation. It can also improve the range of motion in your joints, which can help you stay active and engaged in your daily activities. If you’re looking to massage your muscles, be sure to visit a licensed massage therapist.
Self-massage techniques can be helpful as well, but they don’t offer the same level of care that a professional massage therapist can offer. You can also ask them what they recommend for the best massage for your specific needs. If you’re trying out massage for the first time, make sure to communicate your concerns and expectations to your therapist.