Returning to exercise or sports after any indulgent break such as the Christmas period can leave you feeling sore - delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), leave your joints feeling achy and stiff and if your unlucky sustain an injury from pushing to hard to soon.
Whether you enter sporting competitions or exercise for fun and health reasons Soft Tissue Therapy (STT) can be used as preparation for exercise or competition, between competitions and to assist in recovery from exercise. STT is also important in rehabilitation to increase range of movement, decrease pain and anxiety and reduce stiffness.
Soft tissue therapy has the potential to reduce the inflammatory process associated with injury, facilitate early recovery, and provide pain relief from muscular injuries. By altering signalling pathways involved with the inflammatory process massage is reported to decrease secondary injury, reduce nerve sensitisation resulting in the reduction or prevention of pain and increased recovery from tissue damage (1).
Research (2) has shown that the most commonly cited reason for seeking soft tissue therapy is the treatment or prevention of musculoskeletal conditions or conditions associated with chronic pain. Most individuals use complimentary modalities in conjunction with traditional treatment to decrease recovery time, reduce anxiety and the relief of symptoms - which is one of the most common reasons cited in research (3).
Changes in parasympathetic nervous system activity as measured by heart rate, blood pressure, and hormonal levels such as cortisol (known as the stress hormone) following STT result in a relaxation response. A reduction in anxiety and an improvement in mood also cause relaxation after STT (4).
In general athletes and exercise practitioners have assumed that increased training was the ultimate prescription for improvement. Endurance sports like swimming and running have, in some cases, carried this to an extreme. It is well accepted that over-load is necessary for improvement, however, overtraining results in a breakdown at some level, thus impairment or regression of performance rather than improvement become the norm. Overtraining is usually thought of strictly in terms of training, yet overtraining might also be expressed as under-recovering. If the recovery rate can be improved greater training volumes would be possible without incurring the negative consequences of overtraining (5).
Studies have shown that STT initiated immediately after exercise and 48 hours post exercise were both effective in reducing muscle oedema and decreasing the number of damaged muscle fibres compared to exercised, non- massaged controls. Soft tissue therapy can mitigate secondary injury associated with intense exercise, thereby reducing tissue damage and accelerating recovery (6).
(1) Christine Waters-Banker, PhD, ATC*; Esther E. Dupont-Versteegden, PhD*; Patrick H. Kitzman, PhD*; Timothy A. Butterfield, PhD, ATC, FACSM* (2014) Investigating the Mechanisms of Massage Efficacy: The Role of Mechanical Immunomodulation, Journal of Athletic Training ,49(2), pp. 266–273
(2) Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL. (2004) Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Advance Data. 27 (343), pp. 1–19.
(3) Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine: results of a national study. (1998) JAMA, 279(19), pp. 1548–1553.
(4) Pornratshanee Weerapong, Patria A. Hume and Gregory S. Kolt (2005) The Mechanisms of Massage and Effects on Performance, Muscle Recovery and Injury Prevention, Sports Medicine, 35 (3), pp. 235-256
(5) Phillip A. Bishop, Eric Jones, Krista Woods. (2008) Recovery from training: A brief review, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22 (3), pp. 1015-1024.
(6) Thomas M Best, Scott K Crawford. (2017) Massage and post exercise recovery: the science is emerging, British Journal Sports Medicine, 51 (19), pp.