Mental health, pain and massage

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Sports Massage’?

  • Pain management
  • Injury recovery and prevention
  • Increase ROM and flexibility
  • Posture related issues
  • Reduction of tension
  • Aids sleep quality

Above are a few of the common mentioned benefits you will see posted in your feeds (Some of them being more scientifically proven than others but that is a conversation for another day).

As it’s mental health awareness week, I want to touch on the benefit of ‘Sports Massage’ on your psychological state (which I believe is massively overlooked). Secondly why this benefit can be a big factor in pain reduction.

Mental Health and Pain

There are numerous studies positively linking the relationship between your mental health (stress, anxiety and depression) with chronic pain. Research has shown that you are four times more likely to have depression or anxiety than individuals that are pain free (Mental Health America).

‘Pain Australia’ stated the link between pain, mental health and chronic pain disorders is high and managing these factors could significantly reduce the burden of mental health conditions and improve the individual’s quality of life.

Now it does not take Einstein to tell you that exercise is one of the best tools out there to improve your mental state. You can see the proof in that just by the amount of people doing star jumps in their living room to Joe Wicks live, just to stop themselves from going crazy in lockdown. Exercise is certainly one management tool for mental health, but what links do we have between Sports massage and mental health?

Sports Massage and Mental health

Massage can influence the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Vigorous massages may increase production of adrenaline and endorphins which can stimulate their mental and physical states. A massage that effects the parasympathetic nervous system may release tension in the muscles, reduce blood pressure and make the client feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Massage has also been shown to stimulate the production of the body’s natural endorphins which aid in mood regulation, stress reduction and relaxation. These happy hormones include serotonin and dopamine and enable you to experience a reduction in stress.

Not only are the psychological benefits of massage helpful to the general population but also just as important for athletes. Athletes do not only need a physical advantage over there opponents but also mental strength as well. This leaves the argument that the psychological improvement from sports massage may be just as important as the physiological benefits.

Conclusion

If you are struggling with high levels of stress, anxiety or even depression and/or experiencing chronic pain, then maybe trying a sports massage could help manage symptoms. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system and increasing happy hormone production certainly is not going to do you any harm! Secondly, reducing stress and anxiety in athletes could mean the difference between winning and losing, so for some athletes, sports massage may be a great tool to use along side other modalities to improve overall performance.

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