Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: March 2012

Repair Your Aching Muscles With Massage!

Many of you are well aware that massage can help ease muscle soreness, reduce inflammation, and promote healing after a tough workout. A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine explored just how massage affects injured muscles on a cellular level. Some of you may have seen this study reported in the New York Times last month.

Eleven extremely brave young men volunteered to vigorously exercise on a stationary bicycle until they were about to collapse, and undergo five incisions in their thighs in order to acquire muscle biopsies from the quadriceps. (I hope they at least got a lollipop for that!) On each subject, one thigh was given 10 minutes of massage and the other leg was left to recover on its own. The biopsies were performed before the exercise, immediately after the massage treatment, and once again after 2.5 hours of recovery. The researchers then compared the repair processes of the muscle tissue from the massaged and unmassaged legs.

Many people pop an anti-inflammatory after working out, but this way of reducing inflammation can actually slow down the healing process. The study found that massage decreased inflammation, but at the same time also activated mitochondria, which are essential for cell repair and function. And that was after only 10 minutes of massage! Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, senior author of this study, explains that "With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too - massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery."

So now you can be smart about your post-exercise recovery! Skip the pills and allow the powerful clinical benefits of massage therapy to maximize your healing.

What's the big deal with the warm-up?

Do you warm up before exercising or playing a sport, or do you jump right in? If you answered the latter, you are putting yourself at high risk for muscle strains, back spasms, sprained ankles, sciatica, shin splints, and numerous other injuries.

Imagine a dry block of clay. Before the artist can sculpt, he must add warm water and knead the clay to warm and soften it into a workable consistency. If the artist went right to work with the dry, hard clay, it would crack and crumble. Your muscles and tissues are similar. Without warming up, your cold, stiff muscles can't efficiently handle the demands being placed on them. Taking 10-15 minutes to warm your body before activity allows your muscles to respond to your commands more quickly and easily, and to remain supple while absorbing the increased stress placed on them.

Warming up means just that - increasing your body heat. When we move our bodies, we use nutrients and produce heat as a byproduct. Blood flow distributes this heat throughout the entire body. Warming up increases circulation, making muscles more flexible - much like the warm water the artist uses to make the clay soft and pliable. The increased blood flow carries additional oxygen and nutrients needed by muscles in order to sustain the demands of vigorous activity.

Nerve impulses travel more quickly and efficiently when tissues are warm, and muscles are more responsive to these impulses. Your heart also needs the additional oxygen and nutrients to prepare it for harder, faster pumping. Jumping right into vigorous activity without gradually increasing circulation can put tremendous strain on your heart.

Warming up also prepares the respiratory system by gradually increasing your breathing rate, getting your body ready for the increased demand for oxygen. Without warming up, you will most likely experience premature fatigue and muscle cramping.

In addition, warming up gradually increases synovial fluid, which lubricates and bathes your joints, allowing them to glide smoothly. Skipping your warm-up means that this fluid production lags behind, causing more friction between bones and significantly increasing your risk of joint injuries.

Now that you understand the importance of warming up, you need to learn how to warm up properly. Unfortunately, that's a bit too much for one newsletter, so for clear, simple instructions on how to do a proper warm-up specific to your sport or activity, I highly recommend Exercise Without Injury by Ben E. Benjamin, Ph.D.

There is no reason to put yourself at risk of an injury, when a simple warm up can keep you healthy, improve your performance, and enhance your enjoyment of exercise and sports.

Source: Exercise Without Injury by Dr. Ben Benjamin

What's new with me ...

I finally picked up a knitting project I started 3 years ago, finished the sweater, and now I'm hooked again. Scarves and hats for everyone!

My sports massage certification class has been so useful! This month I'll be starting a class in craniosacral therapy - a whole new modality for me.

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American Massage Therapy Association

Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

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