Benefits of Massage Therapy

Benefits of Massage Therapy


It has long been established that, in almost all cases, the professional cyclist needs massage therapy to improve his or her performance, that they feel the physical and psychological need and become almost dependent on it.

There are many benefits of massage and these can be categorised in two ways:

  • Effects on the musculoskeletal system (mechanical/biological):

  1. Reduction of tension and contractions of the muscle fibres

  2. Increased flexibility and joint mobility

  3. Increased blood / lymphatic circulation

  4. Disposal of waste products from exercise

  5. Muscle tone improvement and stress reduction on bones and joint​​​

  • Effects on the nervous system (neurological) 

  1. Direct action on sensory receptors used to control muscle contraction

  2. Stress reduction by stimulation of the parasympathetic system (oxytocin)

  3. Pain relief by releasing endorphins.

Massage is able to improve the quality of the tissues, but before going into the detail of the mechanical-biological part, let's take a look at the psychological dynamics.  The professional cyclist is used to carrying out regular massage sessions, and become used to them as part of their sporting performance and routine.  If massage was taken out of this routine, they would already expect a change in their performance even before their body felt the actual change.

This correlation is justified by the fact that the massage acts directly on the nervous system through receptors located on the skin that stimulate certain areas of the brain inducing a calming and contentment effect (link).

Although studies says the relationship between performance and massage doesn't exist (link), it is also shown that it increases it indirectly, improving recovery, eliminating and preventing all those factors that would compromise optimal performance such as muscle injuries.

Muscle injuries in cyclists have much lower severity and frequency than in other sports (if we do not consider accidental falls) because cycling consists of a smooth, non-traumatic movement that requires the use of all the muscles of the lower limbs, so much so that a single muscle will never reach breaking point.  Therefore, the range of movement will always be bound to the movement of the pedals. In this way, the characteristic injuries such as tears and strains given by an excessive stretch or contraction are practically non-existent. However, we frequently encounter contractures that occur with prolonged movement at a high intensity.

For an effective massage it is necessary to seek support from trained professionals who know how to dissolve muscle contractures and eliminate fascial tensions.  Doing this effectively helps to rebalance the body and bring oxygen and the necessary nutrients into every area of ​​the body.  Importantly, it helps to create a flow whereby the body can rapidly eliminate waste substances produced under stress. The choice of techniques and types of treatment are many.

The therapist will often use painful manual skills because they will have to go deep to reach the deeper muscle layers, he can also do it with the help of more or less invasive tools. There are many different techniques but defining the type of massage is not easy because it varies a lot depending on the circumstance, the athlete and the therapist, who will vary the dexterity and technique in response to the condition of each individual muscle. You can use myofascial massage techniques alternating with muscle relaxant techniques. Surely a superficial massage like the famous Swede will not get these results but at least you will be relaxed! 

Most athletes during training periods carry out two or three massage sessions a week in order to compete in the next race in the best possible condition. For an amateur cyclist who does daily training, even a single well-done treatment per week can make a positive difference.

Obviously, the less activity you do, the less the need for the massage will be felt.