Can a Single Massage Cure Your Stiff Muscles?
Ouch. You’ve majorly pulled a hamstring, and are limping around like Quasimodo, popping ibuprofen and sitting on as many ice packs as you’ve got in your freezer. Craving relief, you decide to call your massage therapist, because surely a massage will cure your sore muscle, right?
We’ll get back to that question in a moment. First, however, it’s important to understand what happens to your muscle when it gets strained. An acute muscle strain can happen from overexertion, whether that be from throwing or lifting something heavy, slipping or stumbling, or running or jumping. Really, any sudden overloading of a muscle that is not properly conditioned or warmed up can cause a strain. Muscle damage occurs with a partial or complete tearing of muscle fibers, and/or the tendons attached to the muscle. With the initial injury, swelling and inflammation occurs in the area. As the inflammation subsides, the muscle begins to regenerate muscle fibers from surrounding stem cells.
So should you get a massage following a muscle strain? It happens to be a great idea, and here’s why:
Massage increases circulation and blood flow in your entire body, including the injured area. This can bring necessary nutrients to the strained muscle and surrounding tissues.
Think about the chain reaction that often happens with a strained muscle. You may have pulled your hamstring, but the resulting effect can have much further ramifications. You’ve adjusted the way you walk to favor the hurt area, putting your leg, back, ankle, and shoulder muscles out of alignment with every step. Also, the surrounding muscles have likely tensed up in response to your strain. Our muscles tend to try and step in to “help” their injured neighbors, leading to an entire area that is strained and sore. A full-body massage is key for this, and helps in way that is unique from other remedies.
Feeling anxious about your injury? Massage is great for that, too. Studies have shown that massage actually reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. Because of the hormones released, massage can promote a wonderful feeling of relaxation and well-being.
Massage can help you sleep better. This is huge, as our sleep is often disrupted when we have the stress and pain of an injury. Anything you can do to promote peaceful rest is a welcomed bonus.
One note: post-massage, you’ll probably still feel soreness in the area. It’s not an instant pain cure. However, you be assured that you’ve made an important step in the recovery and health of your injured muscle, as well as your entire body.
Please note that in some severe cases of muscle strain, immediate medical attention might be required. If you’re unable to walk, heard a popping sound at the time of injury, or if you have significant swelling and pain, or have a fever, you’ll need to go to an emergency room or urgent care center.
When you get a muscle injury, you’ll commonly hear the RICE method touted – rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the injured area. These are all necessary and smart steps to take. And we think massage should be featured in that must-do acronym for care as well. However since “MICER” or “CRIME” might not catch on very quickly, we’ll keep doing our part to make sure massage is on your short list as an important step in your recovery and wellness.