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Sports massage and DOMS

RED January! Stride for Stroke! 1000 squats for Breast Cancer Now! Move for Mind! 30 day challenges seem to pop up on my social media every few minutes, and they have become increasingly popular as a fundraising and fitness activity. They can be a great way to kickstart a new fitness habit, and a great way to fundraise too. 

But how to make that habit stick, and make all those miles (or steps, or squats, or ab crunches) come just a bit easier? That’s where a bit of self-care can work wonders. Yep - it’s time to start thinking about sports massage.

Where does sports massage come from?

Massage as a concept has been around for a long, looong time. Paintings of massage therapy have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and massage also pops up in a textbook called ‘The Yellow Emperor's Book of Classic Internal Medicine’, from 2700 BCE. Sports massage has been around for slightly less time (although apparently the gladiators were quite keen on it - no, not the ones off the TV show, the ones in the Colosseum), but it has gained in popularity in the UK since the nineties, with sports massage therapists popping up at all sorts of national and international events - even the Olympics and Paralympics. And if it’s good enough for those athletes, right…?

Does sports massage help with DOMs?

One thing massage can help to alleviate is the effects of DOMS - the dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is the pain you feel in your muscles a few hours or days after unusually strenuous exercise - it’s the reason many a marathon runner has found themselves coming down the stairs backwards in the days following their event. In German it's called 'muskelkater', whuch literally translates as 'muscle hangover' and that's a pretty good way to put it - you've put your body through something that's a bit harder than it's used to, and now you're paying the price! It’s not dangerous and it’s not an injury, but it’s not fun either, and can be very off-putting for repeating that run, class or activity next time. It can last for up to a week after the event, and make all sorts of things uncomfortable - even basic things like sitting at a desk or rolling over in bed. And like a hangover it will pass, but there is something that you can do to help.

Massage is a powerful tool to reduce the discomfort that DOMS brings. Studies have shown that the intensity of muscle soreness 48 hours post-exercise is reduced, although just why this happens has yet to be discovered - we know that muscle function itself appears to remain unchanged, so can speculate that the effects of massage may be due to increased levels of endorphins and serotonin (your body’s feel-good chemicals) and reduced levels of stress hormones[1].

Does DOMs go away?

DOMS is something that can happen to anyone undertaking a level of activity unusual for them - it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just done week one of the Couch to 5K programme (yep, I was sore after that too!) or your first marathon (ditto). As you continue to exercise and train it will diminish, and before long you’ll be leaping about the place as though you’ve never even heard of the term! But while you are feeling it, why not do something to help? So if you’re feeling a bit bashed about by your training efforts, give me a call to book your massage appointment and lets give those hardworking muscles a bit of the TLC they deserve.

[1] Hilbert JE, Sforzo GA, Swensen The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness, British Journal of Sports Medicine 2003;37:72-75.

Author Hannah Tabram. Category Blog. First published Wed, 19 Jan 2022 21:41:12 +0000