Post Skiing - Recovery and Regeneration

So what should you do when you have returned from a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding ski trip. Get back into the swing of a busy work-life balance perhaps and leave to one side the favourable memories and muscle soreness of a restorative skiing holiday which likely was highly beneficial for your health. How about more exercise and sports massage?

Massage therapy could be one of the best things you can do for your health. As if lying down on a comfy table, as a skilled massage therapist kneads and rubs your whole body until it's loose as a wet noodle wasn’t enough of a treat, you also receive a handful of health benefits by getting massages. From as early as 2700 B.C., massage was used by several ancient cultures to treat injuries and terminal conditions. Massage therapy continues to hold its place as one of the most effective, safe and natural ways to treat mental and physical ailments, such as stress, pain, anxiety and depression.

A simple bit of research brings up a whole host of perceived benefits........

Here are some top 10 results:

  1. Pain Relief
    One of the biggest reasons people get massages is to relieve pain. Whether its chronic pain from an illness or cramps from excessive exercising, massage therapy is the key to relieving pain the holistic, non-invasive way. It’s believed massage therapy relieves pain through releasing muscle tension but I think it’s a whole lot more complex than that!!
  1. Stress Relief
    Stress affects everyone in one way or another, but if you’re like one of the millions of people who deal with it every day, it might be beneficial to try to manage it. One of the ways to relieve stress and keep stress-hormone levels in control is to get regular massages.  Massage therapy can raise the body’s production and release of endorphins. These are stress and pain preventing hormones that enhance mood and boost immunity.
  1. Increases Circulation
    While the massage therapist applies pressure, stimulates muscles and relieves pain, your circulatory system is hard at work pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and organs. Increased circulation improves blood flow, removes waste away from muscles and internal organs, lowers blood pressure and improves overall body function.
  1. Boosts Immunity
    Massage therapy can increase your body’s natural ability to protect itself and keep you healthy. Certain massages and techniques will improve the flow of lymph, a bodily fluid that fights infection and disease, as well as remove excess lymph through manual drainage.
  1. Improves Posture and Flexibility
    Regular massage therapy can do wonders for your posture and flexibility. Massage therapy loosens and relaxes muscles, which relieves pressure points and relaxes joints helping contribute to greater range of motion. Once pressure points are relieved, the body can position itself properly and restore a natural posture that doesn’t cause pain.
  1. Lowers Blood Pressure
    Several factors can cause high blood pressure, including stress, anxiety and anger. One way to combat high blood pressure and prevent such conditions is through massage. Regular massages have been found to lower blood pressure, by reducing the stress-hormone levels that can cause onset depression, anxiety and anger. Being pain-and stress-free can greatly affect your blood pressure and allow you to relax your mind.
  1. Relaxes Muscles and Mind
    Considering the amount of stressors surrounding us every day, it's sometimes impossible to allow our minds and bodies to relax and release. Massage therapy is one of the easiest ways to achieve this because it activates the body's parasympathetic nervous -system that controls its ability to feel good. Massage therapy loosens and relaxes tense, overworked muscles by breaking up adhesions that cause discomfort. In addition to relaxing your body, massage therapy can calm a racing mind.
  1. Rehabilitates Injuries
    Physical therapy, occupational therapy and other forms of rehabilitation are important to the healing and recovery of injuries, but it doesn’t totally prevent experiencing pain or additional injuries. This is where massage therapy fits in as a supplement to standard rehab. Massage therapy will help increase circulation, relax muscles, increase flexibility and posture and reduce recovery time, while easing stress that may be intensified from painful injuries.
  1. Flushes Bodily Toxins
    Massage therapy plays an important role in clearing toxins from your body. Regular massages can flush out lactic acid build-up in muscles, promote sinus drainage, loosen mucus in the lungs and break up scar tissue. Flushing out toxins and clearing the normal by-products of muscle metabolism can result in reduced fatigue, improved stamina and accelerated healing of muscle tears or injuries.
  1. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
    Massage can help regulate blood sugar levels of those with or without diabetes. Through various techniques and modalities, blood sugar levels are reduced to allow for greater mobility and elasticity in the body. In addition to regulated blood sugar levels, massage therapy also reduces anxiety and depression in children with diabetes.

Wow, why aren’t we all getting regular massages!! Some of us do but most of us battle on and through everything, that’s our mentality I think, part of our culture perhaps.

As usual we could trawl the scientific research and argue against many of the proposed benefits. Massage is difficult to research and much of the alleged benefits rely on anecdotal evidence. However some research findings are listed below to provide a snap shot in order that we get an idea of what that research is looking at and finding.

In a recent Randomized control trial Supa’at et al 2013 showed massage 1hr per week helped lower blood pressure, heart rate and inflammatory markers in hypertensive woman.

Smith et al 2013 found massage effects helped control heart rate variability in preterm infants and it that way helped improve the autonomic nervous system.

Buttagat et al 2011studied heart rate variability (HRV), anxiety, stress related levels, muscle tension, body flexibility and pain thresholds concluding that massage can increase HRV and improve stress-related parameters.

Hemmings et al 2000 shower positive effects of massage in physiological restoration and perceived recovery.

Hunter et al 2005 showed increased muscle relaxation and decreased muscle tension post massage with massage influencing muscle architecture.

Goats 1994 concluded in a review, ‘although further investigations are clearly required in certain areas, the discussion demonstrates that the use of massage in sports medicine can be justified according to orthodox scientific criteria’.

Hilbert et al 2002 found massage induced 2hrs post muscle injury reduced muscle pain 48hrs post injury

Hopper et al 2005 found soft tissue mobilization (STM) increased hamstring flexibility post treatment.

Ogai et al 2008 Concluded petrissage massage improved cycle ergometer pedalling performance independent of blood lactate but in correlation with improved recovery from muscle stiffness and perceived lower limb fatigue.

Ernst 1998 in a systematic review concluded most trials suggest that post-exercise massage may alleviate symptoms of DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) and Massage therapy may be a promising treatment for DOMS. Definitive studies are warranted.

Best et al 2012 offered the conclusions and observations below in his study looking at the role and application of stem cells in muscle healing and the alternative use of massage?

Repair of injured skeletal muscle is an area that continues to present a challenge for sports medicine clinicians and researchers due, in part, to complete muscle recovery being compromised by development of fibrosis leading to loss of function and susceptibility to re-injury

Other useful strategies to enhance skeletal muscle repair through increased vascularisation may include gene therapy, exercise, neuromuscular electrical stimulation and, potentially, massage therapy. Based on recent studies showing an accelerated recovery of muscle function from intense eccentric exercise through massage-based therapies, we believe that this treatment modality offers a practical and non-invasive form of therapy for skeletal muscle injuries. However, the biological mechanism(s) behind the beneficial effect of massage are still unclear and require further investigation using animal models and potentially randomised, human clinical studies.

If you haven’t experienced it don’t simply dismiss it, and perhaps view massage therapy as another useful tool which might provide some health benefits in ways you hadn’t even considered.

Phil Smith MSST