We have written a lot about the benefits of massage to aid recovery, both from injury and from intensive training. But there is another, often under-appreciated, benefit of regular massage namely its role in prevention of injury in the first place. The benefits of this approach are obvious of course: an injury prevented means no setbacks to a training programme, improved longevity, and the avoidance of a lot of potential discomfort.
As ever, massage provides no magic bullet or immunity from injury, but the question is whether the cost of incorporating regular massage into training programmes is worth it for the benefit of reduced injury incidence.
First a quick reminder of the common causes of muscular injury. The most common generally include a combination of inadequate warm-up, poor technique, muscle imbalances, overexertion, and overtraining or insufficient prior recovery. Any of these factors can lead to tightness, strength imbalances and reduced flexibility and mobility, ultimately increasing injury risk.
It is intuitively the case that all these indicators (muscle tightness, imbalance and restricted mobility) can be alleviated through massage. Indeed, these are the most common complaints from which people come to us seeking relief.
Regular massage therapy to help guard against injury should be tailored to individual needs, training intensity, and planned activities. Deep tissue massage for example might be appropriate to help reduce tension in specific muscle groups, or injury-prone areas; or Thai massage might assist with flexibility and improve balance. Such increased flexibility can reduce the chances of a strain or tear during exercise, and allows for smoother and more efficient movement. By helping develop balanced muscle function massage can cut the risk of the kind of compensatory movements that can lead to injuries. The overall benefits of accelerated muscle recovery, reduced inflammation, and improved muscle health can all help minimise the risk of injury through overuse or overtraining.
As well as massage, other injury tried and tested prevention strategies are effective, including proper warm-up and cool-down routines, gradual progression of training intensity, adequate rest and recovery, and regular strength and flexibility exercises. We would say that these practices are all essential, and should be seen as complementary rather than replacements for a regular massage.
As always, we don’t advocate massage as a magic cure-all, but it can certainly help protect your body, and prepare it for the intensity of exercise or competition, and hopefully stop injuries before they happen. It is surely better to treat the root cause rather than treating the symptoms!!