Massage and stretching are both really helpful ways to keep your muscles relaxed, reduce tension and of course help recovery after an injury. Stretching helps to lengthen muscle that have been shortened due to overuse or injury, and helps to realign your skeletal structure which can relieve tension placed upon joints that may already be inflamed and painful due to increased activity. Giving your muscles a really good stretch can help prevent recurrent and painful muscular spasms or cramps, and reduce muscular adhesions (commonly known as knots) from forming within them. These adhesions are usually the painful knots that take so much work to get rid of whenever you have a sports or deep tissue massage! Regular massage on the other hand is a passive way to improve muscle tone and flexibility by keeping your muscles pliable, receptive to repair, and less prone to injury because when the muscles are able to function to their full capacity (with no knots to “bunch up” their full range of movement) the rest of your structure is able to function more smoothly. What are the differences between massage and stretches - and how do they work together to promote muscle and joint health? Massage What is a massage, exactly? Well, stripped right down, massage is simply a word that’s used to describe the manipulation of soft tissues of the body like muscles, ligaments, fascia and other connective tissues. Of course there are lots of different types of massage, and techniques that are suitable for different things, but these are the tissues all massage therapist must work. What’s massage good for? I tend to love a massage for general wellbeing, but sports, deep tissue and medically based massage is recognized for more than just making you feel good. In these instances, massage can:
Help strained muscles to heal faster
Reduce swelling and scar tissue if you’re injured
Relieve stiffness and tension in your muscles
Reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and fatigue
Stretching Stretching does have a lot of similarities to massage, but its main benefit is to relieve the tightness and tension that’s built up in your muscles (and thereby your joints) when you’ve used (and over-used) them. What’s stretching good for? Having a really good, effective stretching program can increase the blood flow to your muscles, and this leads to a better range of motion that helps maintain proper joint alignment. Stretching properly can:
Improve your circulation
Boost your nerve health – a contracted muscle around a nerve can create pressure that can produce pain.
Make movement easier
How can massage and a stretching routine work together? Well, I tend to combine them in every session I give my clients, but daily stretching – to a point where you can just feel it pulling on your muscles – can really help to increase your flexibility, ease physical tension and emotional stress and you can feel the effects of improved range of motion in a matter of a few weeks. Enjoying a regular massage helps to keep your body relaxed and flexible. Massage can release trigger points and muscles in spasm, making your stretching routine even more effective. You could even opt for a Thai massage (something I don’t currently provide) which also combines certain stretch movements and massage in one session to give your muscles and tendons a really thorough workout. Of course, you will get similar relief from a combined session of massage and stretches with me, plus - as a veteran personal trainer - I can take it a whole step further by offering you advice (after your session) on exercises and stretches to add or avoid in order to improve your overall health and prolong the benefits of massage. Especially if you are regularly prone to experiencing tension and stiffness in your muscles.
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