With the Olympics set to begin in July 2021, athletes are training hard to give themselves the best shot at realizing what is probably a lifelong dream: to medal at the Olympics. Beyond Olympic dreams, however, are the countless athletes who are pushing themselves for any number of reasons, whether to stay fit, get that personal best they’ve been chasing or be more active in a world that for the past months has changed fairly dramatically.
Whether you have clients who are Olympic hopefuls, weekend warriors or who are just trying to stay healthy, research is starting to build on the foundation that massage therapy has real benefit for both physical and emotional well-being.
A 2020 single-blind, randomized, pilot-placebo trial compared the effectiveness of massage and light touch massage on psychological and physical functional variables in athletes. Study participants comprised 20 amateur athletes randomly assigned to two different groups: massage group and a control. The intervention lasted one month, and massage group participants were treated once per week throughout the month. Assessments of the participants were performed at baseline and at 24 hours following completion of the intervention. Outcome measures included hip flexion, knee extension and mood.
Results suggest that the massage group achieved better results on physical variables, though both groups saw improvement in mood. “Our results suggest that classic massage could be an effective intervention to improve functional physical variables in athletes,” the study authors note. “However, trends suggest that a light touch intervention could provoke improvements in physiological measures.”
Instrument-assisted Soft-tissue Mobilization + Roller Massage Stick
A 2020 study on fascial adhesions that decrease range of motion compared the effectiveness of both instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM) and a roller massage stick. The objective was to compare the acute and residual effects of both techniques on active and passive hamstring range of motion after a single treatment.
Participants included 16 recreationally active people. IASTM using Graston instruments and a roller massage stick were randomly applied to the hamstrings of the dominant or nondominant leg for 3.5 minutes. Active and passive range of motion were measured pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention and 48 hours post-intervention.
Researchers indicate there was a main effect for time showing a significant increase in active and passive range of motion from pre-intervention to immediate post-intervention and from pre-intervention to 48-hour post-intervention. “IASTM and the roller massage stick were equally effective immediately and over time, but the roller massage stick is more affordable,” researchers note.
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Massage Therapy Journal
Cardiovascular Health & Massage Therapy
1. Gemma V Espi-Lopez, Pilar Serra-Ano, Ferran Cuenca-Martinez, Luis Suso-Marti, Marta Ingles. “Comparison between classic and light touch massage on psychological and physical functional variables in athletes: a randomized pilot trial.” Int J Thera Massage Bodywork. 2020 Aug 27;13(3):30—37.
2. John Lee, Annie Young, Noah J Erb, Valerie W Herzog. “Acute and residual effects of IASTM and roller stick massage on hamstring range of motion.” J Allied Health. Spring 2020;49(1):e51—e55.