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Myofascial Massage for the Sports-Minded

Massage is good for athletes and sports enthusiasts.
 
Myofascial Massage for the Sports-Minded
Taking good care of your soft tissues will help you do your best when exercising or playing your sport.
 
 
 
If you’ve read my previous articles, you know that among many powerful benefits, massage can help release toxins from the body and dissolve trigger points.  There is another piece to the puzzle that may be particularly interesting to athletes and exercise enthusiasts.
 
A glimpse at what fascia looks like in the human bodyThis article is not about myofascial release technique.  Neither is it about sports massage.  It is about fascia and how massaging it and tight muscles can help you to recover from injury, prevent injury and keep your soft tissues in peak performance for your sporting lifeWhat is myofascia?  It is a term that refers to the connection between fascia and muscle.  The picture to the left shows the cobweb appearance of living fascia.
 
Raw chicken gives us the perfect visual into the interconnectedness of fascia with other structures.
But what exactly is fascia?  Let’s look at an illustration of raw chicken.  Notice the smattering of fat in small, yellowish clumps.  You cannot simply pluck the fat off (you need to cut it) because it is attached to a slimy, see-through film called fascia.  In fact, the entire chicken breast is sheathed with a slimy and shiny coating of fascia.  It lies between the meat and the skin of the chicken. Humans have fascia, too. It is surrounds all of your muscle tissue and organs and is critical to keeping everything in the body in its proper place. Fascia is your friend but it can cause havoc when it creates adhesions or when it is injured.
 
It is best to have regular massage while scar tissue is forming so that it lays down smoothly rather than in a jumbled mess that can cause adhesions.When you suffer an injury or have surgery, your body produces scar tissue, a fibrous material similar to the chicken fat example but firmer.  Sometimes that collagen matrix lays down flat and geometrically perfect.  But sometimes it lays down haphazardly and forms a little more of itself than necessary and that can cause adhesions with other tissues.  And when this tissue is in a jumbled formation it can pull on surrounding fascia.  The fascia is connected to muscle just as you see with the chicken.  Pulled-upon muscle restricts range of motion.  All of that tug-of-war going on can cause trigger points to form.

The repetitve motions of certain sports can cause injury to muscles and fascia that can cause pain, dysfunction and loss of full extension.Mild injury can cause micro-tears in soft tissue. Maybe you didn't stretch well enough before running that 5K and you pulled a muscle.  Massage helps by bringing much-needed blood and lymph to areas being worked. Blood carries with it the repairing agents. It also helps to carry away wastes. Healing can occur faster because massage speeds the process by stimulating circulation.
The most common golf injuries occur in the lower back, elbows, shoulders, hands and wrists, and are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries. The impact and stress of the repetitive motion of the swing is sometimes hard on the muscles and joints.  Stretching is an absolute must, but massage can help stretch muscles that you might not be able to easily stretch yourself, like in your shins. Keeping your muscles stretched, loose and hydrated helps to keep them in peak performance so that you can do your best on the field, course or court. It also helps to prevent injury.

When fascia is not kept soft and pliable through movement or massage, it can suffocate muscle tissue by laying stiffly over it.Just like muscles, tight fascia can tear when quickly pulled which is the most frequent form of connective-tissue injury.  Fascia does not recover easily on its own because it is not as elastic as muscle.  It acts more like a plastic bag that has been overstretched.  The body responds to a fascial tear by laying down more collagen matrix.  Excess fibrous tissue can lay stiffly over your muscles rendering them undernourished with reduced function, weakness and increased waste build-up.
 
Fascia can shrink in more places than just your foot. Are you shrinking on the inside? Have a massage! Another risk of abundant fascia is adherence to other structures which can cause further immobility and pain. For example, fascial pull on the surface of bones can cause bone spurs to form. Additionally, repetitive motions and postural imbalances can cause fascial thickening along lines of chronic tension in the body which can shorten range of motion. Plantar fasciitis is literally inflammation and often thickening of the fascia. The best way to soften fascia and keep it mobile beyond movement is through massage.
 
Stretching and massage helps to ensure full extension of muscle tissue and prevents injury.Leaving muscles tight can cause dysfunction in knees, wrists, elbows and more.  For example, because the quadriceps lead to the knee, tight quads can pull on the knee causing you PAIN.  Tight muscles in the forearm can cause wrist pain.  Both knee pain and wrist pain can make playing your sport difficult or impossible.  Shortened range of motion through your back can affect your golf swing.  Abnormal hip rotation due to tight gluteal muscles can limit the number of miles you can run.
 
If you can feel an ache or pain anywhere in your body right now, it is likely due to tight muscles or a soft-tissue injury.  Both acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain can be treated and possibly reversed with therapeutic massage therapy. Massage lengthens and broadens muscle tissue, softens fascia and it can break up some scar tissue and other adhesions.  A common fascial adhesion is along the inside borders of the shoulder blades.  Most people perceive that as "knots" in their back.
 
What you perceive as
If you plan to start an exercise program, you may want to rid your body of adhesions and get your muscles loosened up first through massage.  Massage is also good for your joints, your circulatory system and your immune system. All of those things play a factor into your exercise regimen and in your daily life. Reduced stress levels and better sleep patterns are more benefits.
Before you start your exercise program, release toxins and loosen up your whole body through massage. 
Flexibility is key to workouts and sports.  Schedule a therapeutic massage today!
 
Right as Rain Massage


Emily Hagen NCTM, CNMT
Certified Neuromuscular Therapist
Right as Rain Massage

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