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Why Sports Massage Is Useful for Peak Performance

09/06/2014 13:58 | Updated 06 August 2014

Recent studies on massage after sports performances are showing that massage is beneficial for muscle recovery.

Massage can work well in recovery both on a physical level and on a psychological level. This webcast from the Massage Therapy Foundation discusses this at length:

In the past, scientific literature questioned the efficacy of massage for sport performance.

In fact, the magazine Runners' World pointed out that conflicting research is not helping the "cause" of the benefits of massage for running and athletic performance in general.

The magazine quotes from a research study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise where participants received massage treatments on one leg only. With a schedule of three massages a week over the course of 10 weeks, the study found that when legs were treated with massage they increased their flexibility and strength.

Scientific research needs repeatable and standard processes - which is normally difficult to achieve with massage therapy as each treatment is tailored to the individual. The one thing that makes massage so unique and personalised is also its downfall when it comes to research. However, a large collection of case studies is helping to build the case for massage therapy and, more specifically, sports massage and how it can speed up the recovery process.

Let's talk about sports massage and how it can be improved upon for optimal athletic performance.

The usual image of sports massage is of a deep tissue treatment that can be rather intrusive and uncomfortable at times. What is the point of simply poking and prodding already strained muscles that are fatigued from exercise? To be beneficial and aid recovery, massage needs to be precise and targeted and work on the nervous system as well as on muscle fibres. The emphasis is on aiding the body's own repair mechanism, not to inflict further damage by applying strong pressure.

In sport events, peak performance is everything.

Running, for example, relies on the continuous contraction of muscles and massage can aid the lengthening of muscles after a race and improve blood circulation.

Professional athletes have been using science to improve their sports performance for years - what's their secret and how can we all benefit from that knowledge?

We can look at an athlete's body like a perfect machine - but unlike a machine, humans feel pain and emotions.

Pain and injuries can seriously affect sport performance. They are the enemy, while control, flexibility and range of movement are the best ally.

Sports people know that muscles have a "memory" and they can be moulded into being more flexible even after an injury.

Emmett Sports Massage

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Picture: Sports Massage Therapist London Ben Pianese - Massaggi

An athlete recently explained his experience of the Emmett Sport Massage technique.

This sports massage technique is slightly different from traditional sports massage as it uses specific points in the body to "re-set" it and re-balance it. Instead of the usual prodding and poking, Emmett Sports Massage allows the body to find its own balance. We often forget how the body has an innate ability to repair itself. What the body needs is a simple nudge to re-set itself and reach its balance naturally.

During a session you only need about 20 minutes to see a difference in your balance and stability through the use of specific points that activate the nervous system. The technique works on body re-alignment and muscle release without a strong intervention. The main results are increased joint flexibility and pain management.

Using the Emmett Sports Massage technique London-based therapist Ben Pianese of Massaggi has achieved some interesting results among sports people. Ben treated an overall sample of 50 athletes (runners and tri-athletes) split into two groups.

Half of the athletes received Emmett Sports Massage treatments while the other half of the sample received traditional sports massage treatments (more on that here: Emmett Sports Massage technique). It was found that the Emmett Sports Massage technique improved muscle elasticity by 70%, compared to 10% with traditional remedial massage.

The main difference compared to traditional sports massage therapy was the ability to access the body's very own "reset button" and work at the neurological level (brain, spinal cord and nerves). Unlike traditional sports massage, using Emmett points the body can achieve increased flexibility, elasticity, fluidity in movement and a sense of structural lightness.

For this reason people treated with traditional sports massage tend to still experience a certain degree of muscular tension and mobility restriction even after a series of sports massage treatments, whereas using the Emmett technique they are able to reset their own body and allow for it to achieve further release. The same applies for stretching sessions: through the use of specific activation points in the body, muscle fibres are allowed to stretch further when the Emmett technique is applied compared to stretching only.

Ben Pianese developed the Emmett Sports Massage bespoke technique to recalibrate the neuromuscular system and aid better sports performance.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the application of massage in sports can speed up the recovery from injury and also prevent it.