Are you wondering how massage helps sore muscles? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about sore muscles and how massage affects them.
Muscle soreness is an uncomfortable condition in which your muscles are tender to touch. It may feel like muscle fatigue or a burning sensation. You may experience tightness and pain in your muscles.
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Possible causes of muscle soreness
There can be many reasons for muscle soreness. Exercise is the most common cause of muscle soreness. Muscle soreness occurs as a result of stress on muscles during strenuous exercise.
Athletes and gym-goers often experience sore muscles after a workout. Sore muscles after exercise can be discouraging and make you question doing a workout again. You don’t need to be worried. It’s a normal physiological reaction to vigorous exercise.
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Muscle soreness due to exercise is categorized into two types. The first is delayed onset muscle soreness, and the second is acute muscle soreness. Symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness, as the name suggests, start appearing after a workout, usually within 12-24 hours. The mechanism involves a disruption of muscle fibers and an increase in intracellular enzymes and inflammatory markers that cause swelling.
Acute muscle soreness occurs during exercise. The cause of acute muscle soreness is an accumulation of lactic acid that builds up during a workout. Acute muscle soreness usually disappears immediately after the exercise is stopped.
Muscle soreness can sometimes occur due to other reasons. Chronic muscle fatigue is a condition that causes muscle soreness, fatigue, and headaches. Fibromyalgia is also associated with muscle soreness that causes pain throughout the body. Lyme disease and some infections can also be the reason for muscle soreness.
Symptoms of muscle soreness
Muscle soreness causes muscles to become stiff, painful, and swollen in the affected area. Muscles can feel tender to touch. Muscle fatigue and short-term loss of muscle strength occur due to this. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be muscle soreness.
How to relieve muscle soreness
Muscle soreness is a condition that causes discomfort and pain. To stay active, you have to find a way to deal with it, especially if it’s not due to exercise.
There are many ways to find relief from muscle soreness. You can use analgesic drugs, but they have side effects. Heat, cold baths, and massage are also useful to relieve muscle soreness. Let's discuss how massage relieves muscle soreness.
Massage is a common therapy that has been used for thousands of years. Many physiotherapists suggest that patients receive massages to get rid of muscle soreness.
An article published in Exercise Physiologysuggests that people who get massages within 24 hours of strenuous exercise develop less sore muscles compared to those who did not get massages. The study also reported a decline in serum level of creatine kinase, an enzyme associated with muscle soreness.
How pressing helps relieve muscle soreness
Massage includes manipulating the body's soft tissue with the help of hands, elbows, knees, and feet. It involves pressing the muscles and applying varying amounts of pressure on specific parts of the body. Pressing the skin can activate many acupressure points which help the body heal.
Rubbing the body during a massage raises the temperature of the part of the body where massage is applied. Heat dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow locally due to the release of nitric oxide. Increased blood flow delivers a high amount of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells, thus preventing muscles from injury and improving muscle performance and endurance. Increased blood flow removes excess lactic acid from muscles. This helps treat muscle soreness.
A study by the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported improved muscular function following a massage. Healthy individuals were asked to do an exercise using a standard leg press machine to develop soreness. After that, half of the group received a Swedish massage on their legs. The results showed no soreness in participants who received a massage.
Increases lymphatic flow
There are many kinds of massage techniques that increase lymphatic flow. Compression on the skin in a certain way increases lymphatic drainage, which helps the body remove waste products. It decreases inflammation as it drains fluid and waste products from tissues.
It also speeds up the recovery of the injured muscle, which is slowed down by the accumulation of waste. Overall, increased lymphatic flow helps decrease pain, fatigue, weakness, and muscle soreness.
Increases parasympathetic flow
An article published in The Journal of Physiological Sciences suggests that increased parasympathetic activity decreases muscle fatigue.
Many trigger points correspond to a specific part of the body. Some of these trigger points, when stimulated, enhance the parasympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetic stimulation regulates the nervous system, producing calming effects. It helps restore the body and relieve muscle soreness.
Releases serotonin and endorphins
Massage is well known for promoting relaxation. It does this by releasing happy hormones, which include serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Serotonin binds with serotonergic receptors in the brain and produces feelings of happiness.
Dopamine binds to its receptors, activates the reward system, and brings pleasure. Endorphins are released during stress and pain. They bind to opiate receptors in the brain and decrease the sensation of pain and reduce anxiety. This is why you feel so good during a massage.
The bottom line
Muscle soreness is a condition that causes discomfort. Muscles become tender, painful, stiff, and swollen. Exercise is the most common cause of muscle soreness. It can also occur due to chronic muscle fatigue, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.
Massage is a way to improve health, ease tension, and treat muscle soreness. Pressing on sore muscles activates acupressure points that help them to heal. Increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage remove excess waste from muscle tissue, decrease swelling, and increase recovery. Massage also increases parasympathetic activity and triggers the release of happy hormones that makes you feel good during and after a massage.
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