- Karen Stoner, LMT
Massage Tips and Trivia: After intense exercise, massage can keep muscles from getting too sore
"After intense exercise or activity, massage can keep muscles from getting overly sore"
Have you ever had a really good, intense workout and felt amazing afterwards, but then the next day felt like you were hit by a truck? It happens - even to the most seasoned athletes. One of the culprits behind this phenomenon is known as DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. As with everything involving our muscles and bodies, there is a lot to get into when discussing what exactly happens to your muscles when you work out, but one simple take is this: When your muscles move or basically do anything, they produce a byproduct called lactic acid. When lactic acid sits around in your body, it can feel achy and burn-y because it is basically muscle waste - not something your body wants to keep around. The more your muscles work, the more lactic acid is produced, and the more that needs to be flushed out of your system.
Massage can help prevent DOMS by making the lactic acid flush from your system more quickly. Massage increases circulation, and circulation is what moves everything where it needs to go - both good and bad. Massage can bring healthy stuff to the newly worked out muscles to feed and repair it, while also pushing away the bad stuff that makes it hurt. (Once again, this is an extremely simplified explanation). Sports Massage is a commonly used term for massage after exercise, but it is more than just used after exercise. There are different levels and degrees of massage used for an athlete, or used for wherever stage the workout or activity happens to be in. Before activity, one type of pressure and strokes such as deeper kneading may be used to warm up and prepare the muscles for the work, afterwards, the massage may be light and gliding to help flush out the bad and bring in the good, and finally after the body has calmed down, more moderate pressure and strokes may be used to help the body relax and repair anything that may have gotten overworked during the activity.
Massage is by no means the only thing that can prevent DOMS or soreness after a workout. Taking time to do a cool-down of some sort helps the body come back to a calmer state and allows the hormones to start doing what they need to do to help the body heal and return to normal after the exertion. Stretching also helps the muscles to really 'wring out' the lactic acid, and provides space for it to flush. Drinking water is also very useful in that it also helps push everything along in the body and encourages the bad stuff to flush out of the system more quickly. Adding massage helps all of the above enhance what they need to do to keep your body. Many believe that when exercising, the mentality needs to be "no pain, no gain". This is so not the case on many levels, but nonetheless, taking care to prevent pain after a work out can prevent the bad pain that can injure or discourage future athletic endeavors.