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5 Ways Triathletes Benefit From Remedial Massage

Remedial Massage for Triathletes

For athletes, injuries are pretty common. This is especially since the physical activities they usually participate in can range from mild to intense, and athletes can easily get hurt and injured. And more so, if you’re training for a triathlon, chances are you’re using muscles for repetitive movements. They can be subjected to repetitive contractions, making your body vulnerable to certain injuries caused by overusing muscle groups.     

In fact, in a study done on participants at a triathlon event, almost 70% reported at least one injury since they began their training. The same study also states that more than two injuries occur every 1,000 hours of triathlon training.  

With that, training and competing for triathlons are one of the most rigorous activities athletes can experience. That’s why most endurance athletes alternate periods of intense training with rest and recovery to get the most out of their training program. But aside from that, preventive and recovery care, like remedial massage as a complementary therapy, are also vital training components.

What Is Remedial Massage?

Remedial massage uses a clinical approach to treatment that starts with an assessment and analysis of the patient’s condition. It assists in pain and injury management, rehabilitation, and treatment of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It aims to treat symptoms and the original cause of pain via massage techniques like trigger point therapy, joint mobilization, deep tissue massage, myofascial release, and strengthening and stretching exercises. 

Essentially, this massage treatment can be used to treat a patient holistically or as a targeted therapy for body parts needing rehabilitation. Once your therapist locates these spots, they will do a targeted treatment of the area. Consequently, remedial massage physiotherapists require more extensive training in physiology and anatomy before they can treat patients. 

How Can Triathletes Benefit From Remedial Massage?

Training for endurance sports like triathlons can cause injuries like swimmer’s shoulder, strains on calves and hamstrings, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, sprains, and others. As among the more effective massage and therapy options, remedial massage therapy can benefit a triathlete through the following:   

1. Loosens Tight, Overworked Muscles 

Muscle tightness or stiffness can happen when you increase the duration or intensity of an exercise routine, like running. Microscopic damage to your muscle fibers occurs, which causes muscles to tighten and become sore. This injury is also known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

Massage techniques can help reduce muscle tightness by using friction to increase the temperature of the affected muscle tissues. As muscles and soft tissues warm up, blood flow to the area increases, loosening muscle fibers and restoring the muscle group’s natural function. Massage therapy also helps in minimizing muscle spasms and aids in muscle regeneration 

2. Improves Flexibility

One of the remedial massage techniques is deep tissue massage, which can be effective in improving an athlete’s flexibility. Essentially, it targets the muscle and connective tissues, increasing blood flow and temperature. And as muscle tissues expand with heat, muscle tension eases up. 

Deep tissue massage can also help boost flexibility by focusing on myofascial release, which refers to the stimulation of hardened muscle fascia and soft tissue to loosen and become elastic. This technique finds myofascial areas that are fixed and rigid instead of loose and elastic. These areas are thought to be responsible for the muscles’ and joints’ inflexibility. 

Muscle flexibility benefits athletes who engage in endurance sports like triathlons, as higher muscle flexibility helps them perform better. For example, when swimming, greater shoulder flexibility allows for long strokes. Also, flexible hip flexors and quadriceps help the athlete maintain a good running form, allowing for more efficient use of energy. For cyclists, a tight hamstring can hinder the legs during downstrokes.

3. Helps Speed Up Recovery

Remedial massage also greatly helps your recovery after a strenuous workout. It can help decrease muscle soreness by relaxing muscles and increasing blood circulation. Faster delivery of nutrients and oxygen also results from increased blood circulation, helping repair micro-tears in your muscles during a workout. 

Different massage techniques can loosen scar tissues and draw out muscle tightness. The therapist can focus on your muscle tightness and trigger points that develop after a workout. As tightness is relieved, your muscles can regain their movement and reduce joint and muscle pains. And as the micro-tears in your muscles are repaired and the muscles rebuild themselves, they can become larger, stronger, and more flexible. 

4. Can Aid In Alleviating Muscle Pains 

A good, satisfying workout is essential for any athlete wishing to improve. However, as mentioned, it can also cause micro-tears in your muscle fibers. And as your body gets into repair mode, the site where micro-tears occur becomes temporarily inflamed. The inflammation presses into nerve endings and can cause pain. 

Massage therapy can help by reducing the buildup of cytokines, a chemical that plays a vital role in the body’s inflammatory response. Also, massage therapy can stimulate mitochondria, which are known for being the powerhouse of the cell. As the cell’s powerhouse, mitochondria turn glucose into energy critical for various cell functions, including repair. 

There are several ways that good massage therapy relieves muscle soreness and pain besides relaxing tendons, joints, and muscles. It may also bar your body’s ‘pain gate’ by stimulating certain nerve fibers. With this ‘gate’ closed, pain messages from nerve endings are impeded from reaching your brain. 

5. Encourages Quick Removal Of Metabolic Wastes 

During training, working muscles could generate a high level of lactates and metabolites, which could make you feel fatigued. This can lead to muscle aches and a noticeable drop in your activity levels, which can slow down your training sessions unless the metabolic wastes are quickly flushed out of your system. 

Your body can eliminate these metabolic wastes naturally. Massage therapy can hurry the process along, however. It stimulates your lymphatic system, which increases lymph flow in the affected areas. Lymph flow increase helps in the efficient removal of metabolic waste. With waste products gone from your system, pain and swelling could be decreased, and you can get back to training much faster. 

Conclusion

Remedial massage uses various massage techniques depending on the patient’s needs. It’s also used as a complementary therapy alongside other physiotherapy treatments. For endurance athletes like triathletes, remedial massage can benefit them by alleviating muscle aches, loosening up tight muscles, improving flexibility, hastening the removal of metabolic wastes in the body, and speeding up recovery. 

References

Cosca, D; Navazio, F. (2007, July 15). American Family Physician. Common Problems in Endurance Athletes. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2007/0715/p237.html

Bezuglov, E. et al. (2021, November 7). National Library of Medicine. The Prevalence of Use of Various Post-Exercise Recovery Methods after Training among Elite Endurance Athletes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8583677/

Bubnis, D. (2019, November 17). Medical News Today. What to know about muscle soreness. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327138

Bauer, B. (2019, April 20). Mayo Clinic. Myofascial release therapy: Can it relieve back pain? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/expert-answers/myofascial-release/faq-20058136

Harvard Health Publishing. (2016, July 1). Therapeutic massage for pain relief. https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-integrative-health/therapeutic-massage-for-pain-relief

Brownell, S. (2021, October 6). The Harvard Gazette. Massage helps injured muscles heal faster and stronger. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/10/massage-helps-injured-muscles-heal-faster-and-stronger/ 

Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler