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  • The Importance of Rest and Recovery

    The Importance of Rest and Recovery
    15 Oct
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    Posted by Evolve College News

    Massage therapy is so often associated with supporting athletes, or those keen on exercise and activity, through their recovery from aches and pains – because typically – aches and pains are to be avoided, as we don’t like anything that slows us down!

    But this article looks at the importance of rest and recovery, and also discusses the appropriateness of you as a massage therapist, treating a client who may have overdone it in sport or other physical activities. 

    Why do we feel sore after a day of strenuous exercise? 

    When you work your muscles harder than you are used to, it is generally believed to cause microscopic damage to the tiny muscle fibres working so hard in your arms, legs, core or any other area that you are working out. These tiny tears in the muscle fibre usually cause a delayed painful feeling known as DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness), which can take place 1-2 days after the strenuous exercise took place, and can last anywhere from 3-5 days depending on the severity. DOMS can additionally leave you feeling weaker in the affected muscle groups or leave you completely unable to perform the exercise that caused the original soreness.

    What is the best way to recover? 

    This will of course depend on the severity of the damage done and how strenuous the exercise was. But instead of looking for quick fix solutions, it is important to listen to what your body is communicating. If you feel like you can’t lift anything heavy because you’re too sore – then don’t! Give your muscles time to rest and recover by keeping movement gentle and to a minimum for as long as the pain persists. As it begins to feel better, then gradually increase movement, adding in gentle stretching to keep the muscles active and to prevent stiffness.

    It is important that, if you find yourself: 

    • Still experiencing pain more than 48 hours after it began – and you have done no further exercise to aggravate the soreness,
    • Experiencing pain that began during the exercise or came on suddenly, 
    • Experiencing pain in the joints as well as muscles,
    • With swelling and or/bruising, 

    to visit your healthcare professional to have a proper diagnosis as it is unlikely that you are simply experiencing DOMS but potentially a more serious injury that requires more specific treatment.

    Should I massage a client experiencing DOMS?

    If the client is coming to you because they are experiencing DOMS and are looking for you to ‘fix’ it – be clear to them that only rest and recovery is recommended to heal the damage that is causing the aches and pains – and if given the opportunity the healing process should be fast and without any further issues. Typically, massage in the immediate days after the pain begins should be avoided, but as the pain begins to lessen and the muscle begins to recover, then gentle massage can occur and can support the client to get the muscle moving again. It should be mentioned in this case that deep tissue massage should not be performed on a client recovering from DOMS as this will aggravate the damage and prolong the pain and healing process. Light pressure is recommended, in addition to encouraging gentle movement and stretching to warm up the muscles. 

    At the end of the day, rest and recovery really is the golden ticket to supporting muscles to return to performing at their best.  

    Avoidance of DOMS can occur by including an adequate warm up before exercise, and increasing intensity of exercise gradually as one’s fitness increases, rather than going from 0 – 100! However, for those training for sporting events or embarking on fitness programs, experiencing aches and pains may be difficult to avoid. In all cases, rest and recovery is what your body is asking for – so take a day or two off and give your muscles a well-deserved break.