How Massage Therapy Aids in Muscle Recovery - Olathe Chiropractic

How Massage Therapy Aids in Muscle Recovery

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Athlete receiving massage therapy from a therapist

Athletes have long been turning to massage therapy to help with muscle soreness and recovery, but why? Strenuous exercise causes small tears in muscle fibers, which trigger an immune reaction in the form of inflammation. Your body gets right to work repairing and restoring your injured cells. Researchers have discovered that massage reduces the creation of protein compounds called cytokines, which play a role in inflammation. Scientists found that massage also stimulated mitochondria—the tiny powerhouses inside cells change glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. This is why massage therapy is so beneficial for sore muscles.


Why Do Your Muscles Get Sore?

Have you ever wondered why you get sore after working out? This is a natural response from your body after physical activity. There are several theories and explanations for why your muscles will feel weaker or hurt a day or two after physical activity. That buildup of lactic acid in the muscles cause inflammation, which causes soreness. However, your soreness could also be because you are causing physical damage and change in your muscles.


When you lift weights or exercise (especially if it exerts you), you damage muscle fibers in your body, which can actually cause bleeding in those muscle fibers. Your body reacts by releasing chemicals and inflammation in the muscle tissue because it’s sustained a type of injury. This type of damage can be good for you, as your body builds up newer and better muscle fibers in place of the damaged ones. That’s how lifting weights can build larger and stronger muscles over time. Your body releases cytokines, which are proteins that can affect the cells in your muscles and body. The breakdown of muscle fibers and building up of new ones also creates that lactic acid and fluid build-up which you will feel as muscle soreness.


close-up image of a person lifting a weight

Trigger Points and Other Problems

You have over 650 different muscles in your body. Those muscles cover all of your bones and organs and are responsible for your body’s ability to move. Every time you move, you are using countless muscles to make that movement possible. Because there are so many muscles always working, there are countless areas of the body where a muscle can get a kink in it. Sometimes we refer to this kink as a “trigger point”. This is essentially a knot of tension that can happen when a muscle tenses up and fails to relax itself. It can do this in the same area over and over again from spinal misalignment, injury, and more. Even bad posture can cause a trigger point knot to form.


If you have pain or soreness that tends to stick around past the 1-2 days after physical activity, it could be a trigger point. If you have chronic pain that plagues you with movement or you can’t use a muscle after a workout, it could be a muscle strain, tear or similar injury. Always assess your body’s symptoms after exercising and seek medical treatment if you have severe pain.


What Is Massage Therapy?

Luckily, a trigger point is not usually a serious medical problem. It can, however, create symptoms in your body that can be a nuisance. Trigger points lead to neuropathy symptoms, localized pain in one area, lack of range-of-motion and more. You can often feel these knots and can even work them out through massage therapy. This is actually one of the best ways to relieve pressure and pain in the body if it’s due to a knot or a buildup of lactic acid. You get pain if your body holds pressure and fluid in the muscles without a release. You can release it through moving it around with massage therapy. Many medical professionals recommend this type of muscle recovery treatment after a workout.


Warm-Ups and Muscle Recovery

For every workout, you can reduce your problems with muscle recovery if you stretch properly. Instead of stretching before a workout, do a warm-up first. Stretching with tight muscles could actually cause an injury. Do a warm-up for a few minutes, and do light stretches. Increase your stretches little by little to loosen up your body for a workout. This can help your muscle stay more elastic during a workout. After a workout, cool down by stretching as well. This can help muscle recovery by releasing some of that built-up lactic acid that’s in the muscles. With every workout, make sure you take time to baby your muscles to avoid injury.


Athlete receiving a massage after a workout

Massage Therapy for Muscle Recovery

Studies show that massage therapy works much better for muscle recovery than other methods often used. Many people use anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications or ice baths after a workout to ease sore muscles. These methods can reduce inflammation in the muscles. However, studies show that ice baths and medications can also impair a person’s muscle repair and growth. Massage therapy is a natural therapy that doesn’t do that. It keeps the blood circulating and the muscles warm as it seeks to remove fluid and pressure buildup from the muscles.


Research Studies

For muscle recovery, researchers found that those who did massages after a workout had less inflammation and pain than those who didn’t receive them. Instead of tightening up the muscles, massage therapy keeps the muscles active. This therapy does not significantly reduce lactic acid in the muscles, but it moves it around so it is not stagnant, causing you pain. It also stimulates the mitochondria of the cells to change glucose into energy. The main benefit of massage therapy for muscle recovery is that it keeps blood circulation going, providing oxygen and nutrients to the cells, which helps the muscles heal faster. That faster healing leads to quicker muscle recovery and less soreness.


If you find that you are often in quite a bit of pain from muscle soreness after a workout, see if massage therapy can help you! To learn about our massage therapy services, call Olathe Chiropractic today at (913) 732-0087!

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