If there was one ancient society that valued physical fitness, it was the ancient Greeks. To them, training the body and mind was considered a civic duty. Because of that, gymnasiums and athletic activities were common sights. But there was another common sight in this society that may surprise you: massage tables. The Greeks believed there were numerous benefits of massage for athletes, and they may have been onto something.
Prevents Delayed-Onset Soreness
Once thought to be a result of built-up lactic acid in the muscles, the pain you feel 12 to 24 hours after a workout—delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—is actually the result of microscopic tears in the muscles. Massage promotes healing in these areas by relaxing muscle tension and promoting blood flow. This increase of blood and the oxygen and nutrients blood contains promote faster healing and reduce the prevalence of DOMS.
Helps Recovery from Sports Injuries
Few things are more disappointing for athletes than being benched due to injuries. Fortunately, one of massage’s key benefits for athletes is the reduction of recovery time for certain sports injuries, such as sprains, strains, and muscle tears. As we mentioned, massage improves blood flow, which brings healing nutrients to injured areas. Better blood flow also reduces swelling and inflammation in these areas. Massage can even break up scar tissue.
Massage doesn’t only focus on the muscles; it also affects tendons, joints, and connective tissues. By improving blood flow to these areas, you give yourself a greater range of motion and flexibility. This helps you on the field as well as off it. Massage also offers benefits on a cognitive level, promoting the production of mood-improving endorphins and decreasing levels of stress-inducing cortisol. Athletes who are relaxed and happy are more likely to pay better than those distracted by stress.
A lot of factors play into your sense of balance, including your limbs, posture, and footing, and massage affects all of them. We have already discussed how massage affects muscle flexibility in the outward limbs, but it can also improve posture by releasing body tension. Massage can also aid in strengthening muscles; when applied to a foot massage, it promotes surer footing.
The next time you get off the field or court, take a lesson from the ancient Greeks. Whether you see a massage therapist or sit in a massage chair, as an athlete, you’re sure to reap the benefits.