There are two common types of muscle soreness. The first type, acute muscle soreness is usually accompanied by fatigue; the pain is transient and occurs during and immediately after exercise. Everybody who has done a hard workout will be familiar with the burn and ache that occurs 24-48 hours after, this type of muscle soreness is often referred as DOMS. DOMS develops 24-48 hours after unaccustomed physical activity and typically occurs after the first one or two sessions of a new exercise program. There are six main theories on the etiology of DOMS; lactic acid, muscle spasm, torn tissue, connective tissue, enzyme efflux and tissue fluid theories.
Factors that have appear to lessen DOMS includes warm-down, post event massage, active non-weight bearing exercise, hydrotherapy and spa baths.
Muscle stiffness does not produce pain. It occurs when a group of muscles have been worked hard for long periods of time. The fluids that collect in the muscles during and after exercise are absorbed into the blood stream at a slow rate. As a result, the muscle become swollen, shorter and thicker and therefore resists stretching. This in turn may make the muscle more susceptible to strains and tears. Light exercise, massage and passive mobilization assist in reducing stiffness.
A muscle cramp is a painful involuntary contraction of the skeletal muscle or muscle group. Cramps have been attributed to dehydration and lack of electrolytes. Muscle cramps may lead to muscle strain if prolonged and untreated.
How the body responds to massage
Mechanical responses to massage occur as a result of graded pressure and movements of the hands over the body. Various massage strokes encourage venous and lymphatic drainage. Connective tissue can be effectively stretched by friction massage, which helps prevent rigidity in scar formation. Physiologically massage can increase circulation and, as a result, increase metabolism to the musculature and aid in the removal of metabolites such as lactic acid. It also helps overcome venostasis and oedema by increasing circulation at and around the injury site, assisting in venous blood return to the heart. When an athlete is forced to remain inactive while an injury heals or when oedema surrounds a joint, different massage techniques may help to improve circulation by encouraging venous return therefore reducing swelling and speeding up recovery.
When should massage be performed?
Massage can be performed pre and post event. Massage during the training phase may help prevent injury by keeping the muscles flexible and reducing the build-up of fluids and toxins therefore reducing the risk of injury.
Pre event massage can be performed to lengthen and promote circulation to the muscle allowing the individual to perform to their maximum potential.
Post event massage can be performed directly post or 24-48hrs post. Directly post helps venous and lymphatic return therefore helping the athlete to shift excess fluid and lactic acid preventing build up which may prevent muscle stiffness and the onset of DOMS. Massage 24-48 hrs post event may help relieve muscle soreness, stiffness, and cramping. The promotion of circulation, lengthening of muscle fibres and the added benefit of aiding the removal of toxins may help to relive symptoms of overexertion and help the athlete to remain and preform at optimum level.
by Ben Hewitt
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