MSc BSc (Hons) GSR DNS-ET
MASSAGE WILL IT FIX ME?
Let’s face it when the average person think of Physio, Osteo, Sports therapy (chiros tend to get away with this a bit more as the “Back Crackers” of the industry) they think they’re going to get some form of massage and that is going be the “Fix” for the issue and the more pressure the more “Knots” we’re going to rub out and BOOM all fixed!
Well if it was that simple everyone would just do a simple massage course and we make everyone’s musculoskeletal issue better whilst simultaneously improving the value of shares in almond and grapeseed oils.
Whilst I’m being facetious the reality for the most part is MASSAGE WILL NOT FIX YOUR INJURY (in caps for the people in the back).
There are a few exceptions where massage or “Soft tissue techniques” might actually get rid of your current pain. A very simplified example is if you have become sensitised to a position and the body deems it a threat so it creates a protective pain signal i.e “I don’t wanna be here so here’s some pain to let you know” and the soft tissue treatment allows you to get that position without pain, you would rightfully say it’s fixed.
True we have just reduced the body’s perception of the threat and in turn reduced its protective pain response but unfortunately 1) these scenarios are rare and the root cause is typically still not addressed. 2) It’s still movement that solidifies the new change. Think painful trap muscles that hurt when you turn your head (they’re not damaged just on threat) someone digs and elbow in and voila you can turn your head with reduced or no pain. Now you keep using that new range and the body learns that it isn’t a threat so no more pain.
So did the massage fix it? or was it just a gateway drug for new movement to allow the body to relearn there’s no need for pain now? Also did it address why the pain started in the first place?
WHY WON’T MASSAGE FIX ME?
Despite what some old school clinicians and massage therapists will have you believe theirs, mine or even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons elbow will not change your muscle architecture. No one is breaking up tissue unless you have a scalpel!
Lets put this into perspective when you run up to 7 x your bodyweight goes through your foot with each step. If my thumb could break up the tissue then with every running step your calf would become a big sack of broken up mush. Eddie Hall deadlifted 500kg, his intra-abdominal pressure was so high the knock on effects burst the blood capillaries in his nasal cavity yet all muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons are intact.
WHAT DOES FIX ME?
LOAD!!! When I say load I mean applying resistance / force to whatever tissue in order to make the body adapt and make the tissue STRONGER!
This is achieved via……drum roll please…. “Exercise”. I appreciate this is a very reductionist answer and the actual answer incorporates, lifestyle, nutrition, Psychology etc, but lets keep this to a purely biomechanical approach for simplicity.
As with most things there’s a sweet spot as in too little it won’t adapt, too much can make things worse and the sweet spot is where the magic happens. This is when that hamstring strain that’s been bugging you when you run for the past year that didn’t get fixed with the 8 massages, turns out just needed to get stronger so it adapted (got bigger and longer muscle fibers) and didn’t get re-injured when you run, play football or during downward dog or bending down to pick your kids up, you get the idea.
So in summary if you’re looking physically “FIX” an actual injury i.e hamstring strain, achillies tendinopathy, tennis elbow or IT band syndrome (whatever that term is supposed to mean….not now Sam save it for another post) Then no massage will not help and a good clinician will identify what is going, typically how long that tissue needs to adapt and build a specific and tailored program to get you sorted. But if they want to just massage (Passive care) then find another clinician.
I’m not anti-massage I’ll write about some potential massage benefits soon!