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Massage & Fitness

By: Rob DiTursi

We’ve all been there. We start up a new fitness routine and we start it hard. We commit to five days a week, no matter what and, when we exercise, we do it hard. The first week we are pretty sore, but we suck it up and press on.

Week two comes up, and although we are still sore, we press on by going farther and working harder. By week three, if we’ve made it that far, we are starting to see the results of our hard work, but our performance is slacking and we seem to be perpetually sore, and the work gets harder to do.

At this point, we may slow down a bit. We might choose to take the week off. Eventually, one week off becomes two weeks off, and then three, at which point our committed fitness routine becomes a shameful memory.

The key to any effective fitness routine is consistency. The fundamental basis to fitness consistency is pushing far enough to challenge the body but not so far as to punish it. A proper balance between work and recovery must be made.

There are four stages in muscle recovery all of which can be aided with the addition of massage therapy.

Stage 1: Delivery of nourishment — To repair damaged tissue, nourishment and supplies need to be delivered to the area so the recovery process can begin. In a massage, as the muscle tissue is kneaded and stretched, more nutrients and supplies are allowed to be transported to the damaged tissue.

Stage 2: Waste removal — To keep waste from building up and leading to swelling or further damage, the next stage involves the process of removing waste. The lymphatic system is responsible for removing waste, but it’s a passive system that relies on movement of the body to circulate. Numerous studies have shown massage can exponentially increase the rate of flow through the lymphatic system, thereby speeding up the removal of waste and decreasing inflammation.

Stage 3: Tissue regeneration — During this stage of recovery, myokines are produced and released into your body. Myokines are the proteins in the body that drive tissue regeneration. The muscle activation and stimulation obtained from a therapeutic massage provides the mechanical stress required to produce myokines so your damaged tissue can be repaired.

Stage 4: Remodeling of repaired tissue — After tissue has been repaired, it then needs to be remodeled. When new tissue is formed, it creates a random pattern that makes it hard for the tissue to slide smoothly past one another. The tissue needs to be rearranged in straight lines so it can function properly. Certain massage techniques like myofascial release and longitudinal stretching allow the repaired muscle tissue to optimally remodel.

Failure to optimally remodel the repaired muscle tissue can lead directly to dysfunctional movement. Whether you are starting into a new fitness journey or fine tuning and ramping-up a regimen you’ve already been following, be sure to allow enough quality time for recovery. Furthermore, make that recovery time count by adding regularly scheduled therapeutic massage to your routine.

Rob DiTursi is a Moon Brook Medicine Licensed Massage Therapist.

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