Can Massaging Sore Muscles Make It Worse?

Muscles sore after a workout? Thinking about getting a massage afterwards to help with the pain? Reducing soreness encourages people to go and continue doing their physical activities and at a higher intensity, helping to build muscle cells. But can massaging sore muscles make it worse instead? In this article, we answer that question and everything surrounding it.

Why Are Your Muscles Sore?

Muscles get sore after moderate and heavy exercise

A common misconception about muscle soreness, or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is that it is due to the release of lactic acid. This however is not true. Muscle soreness is caused by the inflammation of muscles after they break down and during the repair process after a workout. DOMS happens when you’re returning to an activity after a long break period or when you’re starting a new one. The muscle will repair to become stronger and larger than before. 

Mild to moderate soreness in muscles is nothing to be concerned about. No one is immune to getting some level of soreness after exercising, including people who exercise on a regular basis. However, muscle soreness should be looked at if the pain is so bad that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities or affects your ability to work

DOMS is a great sign that your exercise is having a positive effect on your muscle building. Some people will take it as an immediate sign that their hard work is paying off, while others may feel like they have hurt themselves. It is important to distinguish between what is normal and what isn’t, as the long term effects of moderate to intense exercise is very beneficial to our health.

Types of Massages You Can Get For Sore Muscles

First, let’s find out what common massages you can get for sore muscles, especially after you exercise.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massages relax muscles and ease muscle pain

A Swedish massage is the most common type of western massage. It involves applying light to medium pressure on joints and muscles with kneading, long strokes, circular motions, and friction. The main purpose of this massage is thus muscle relaxation and release of tension, and is useful for the treatment of different muscle and body pain. Swedish massages are also a great long-term alternative to medications for chronic pain.

Deep Tissue Massage: 

Stimulate deep tissue muscle fibres with a deep tissue massage

A deep tissue massage is similar to a Swedish massage, but focuses more on treating muscle strain and injuries. This is done by applying more pressure with deeper strokes to target the inner layers of muscle fibres and connective tissue. As a result, deep tissue massage helps to relieve injuries by breaking up scar tissue and increasing blood flow, which helps it to heal. 

Furthermore, this massage helps muscles recover by reducing inflammation. After intense exercise, this massage will stretch the muscle and tendon, and relieve tight muscles in the process. Deep tissue massages are also perfect to get rid of muscle knots you pick up from day to day activities.

It should be noted that deep tissue massages should not be had within 24 hours before exercise, as there will be some post massage soreness.

Sports Massage

Sports-related injuries are best treated with sports massages

Sports massages use a combination of techniques to help people with specific sports-related muscle injury and soreness. The aim is to help with peak athletic performance by targeting and manipulating muscles in increasing strength, flexibility and endurance

This massage works to provide pain relief and improve muscle tissue performance by being carried out before, during or after a workout. What massage techniques are used will depend on the individual person’s needs, with the end result being to either increase circulation, stimulate nerves, stretch and separate muscle fibres, or to break down scar tissue.

Well, Can Massaging Sore Muscles Make It Worse?

Massaging After a Workout

Post workout massages will help you get back to your exercise routine faster than ever before

So let’s address the question. Can massaging sore muscles make it worse? The answer is no! Massages are great in helping muscle recovery and reducing soreness. Traditionally, stretching after a workout is used to help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). However, this study showed that a 20-30 minute massage within 2 hours of a workout is the most effective method of reducing DOMS. 

The best type of massage for muscle recovery is the deep tissue massage and sports massage. These are especially important and effective if you are doing multiple high-intensity workouts every week that make you feel sore.

This will help your long-term health and fitness journey by improving post-workout recovery, reducing muscle fatigue, stiffness and increasing blood flow. Muscle torque, or the amount of force muscles can exert in a movement, also improves with post-workout massages. This combination of benefits will allow you to go harder during your workouts with a reduced chance of injury.

People who are new to exercising or are new to trying a specific workout will also benefit from post-workout massage. Studies have shown that a post-exercise massage reduced DOMS and pain by a large amount. This massage therapy will encourage more people to continue with their exercise routine and improve their health and fitness.

Combine Your Post Workout Massage With Other Recovery Methods

Ice baths are popular amongst athletes for muscle recovery

Your muscle soreness is best treated using a combination of different methods. These include pre-workout massages, stretching, cold exposure and heat exposure. 

Light massages and sports massages are good before a workout, as they can help stretch and warm up muscles. This preparation before a workout can also help to prevent injuries which can be sustained after heavy exercise. Massages will also help ease anxiety and clear the mind, helping us to focus on the activity we are about to do. 

Stretching improves the elasticity and range of motion possible with muscles, helping performance and reducing the chances of injury from overstretching or tearing from tightness. It’s important to stretch after exercise instead of before, as stretching cold muscles is more likely to lead to injury rather than prevent it. 

Cold exposure, such as cold baths and showers also helps reduce muscle soreness and fatigue by increasing blood circulation in deep tissue fibres. This results from reduced blood flow on the surface of our skin due to the narrowing of blood vessels, forcing more blood flow from deep tissue fibres to warm us up. Heat exposure, in the form of hot showers/ baths and hot packs, reduces soreness by increasing blood circulation.

Get Onto the Massage Table Today!

So, can massaging sore muscles make it worse? No! Getting massages decreases inflammation, ridding you of the pain and soreness in your muscles. You should combine both pre and post-workout massages for the most benefit. If you’re ready to get a great deep tissue massage at home after your workout, visit OSIM Australia and get yourself one of our massage chairs.

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