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Massages, truly essential for recovery

Massage is a very widespread practice among many athletes – high level or not. It is presented as a complement to physical preparation.

Sports massage: a must for athletes?

And if sports massage does indeed allow you to feel a sensation of well-being, it is essential to differentiate it from a so-called well-being massage. Only a massage therapist or physiotherapist has the qualities required to carry out manipulations specific to the athlete's recovery. These practitioners are particularly trained to recognize muscular tension and stiffness through palpation of the muscles and to work on relaxing these areas in question. In order to work the athletes' muscles as best as possible, these practitioners use different and very diverse techniques: sliding pressures, kneading, crushing or even heeling and elongation percussion frictions, for example. A sports massage is tailor-made and takes into account the athlete's discipline, their training schedule and the time when it is carried out. It then appears difficult to establish a classification of the different types of massages, as explained by Vincent Jacquet, sports physiotherapist at the Pôle Kiné Chenel (Franconville) . “What differentiates one massage from another is the muscular tissue in which we are interested. The intensity of the massage also comes into play.”


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Sports massage: a key to sports practice?

For a sports massage to be truly effective, a few simple rules must be followed. You should know that, if the time at which it is carried out and the frequency are specific to the needs of each person, “there will be periods more strategic than others” continues Vincent Jacquet. Before a session, manipulating the muscles will help prepare them for exercise by heating them and boosting circulation 1 . “And even if the massage proves useful before a session, it is really after the effort or by integrating it into your physical preparation plan that it takes on its full importance,” specifies the practitioner. The objective is to reset the counters to zero in order to be able to resume training in the best conditions. And this is the reason why there are few contraindications to daily massages – to be avoided in the event of an injury – and why many athletes can no longer do without them. This is particularly the case for cyclists during the Tour de France. For so-called regular athletes, integrating one session per week is suitable. And, without being able to go to the physiotherapist or masseur, a growing number of people are using self-massage tools. The foam roller – this small roller with or without nubs – is an example. Tools which prove particularly interesting if they are used in addition to traditional physiotherapy sessions. But as with the latter, it is important to respect a few rules in order to get the most out of them. The physiotherapist explains to us: “it is important to allow a period of rest before massaging and being cold. You then have time to go home, take a shower and eat something. But massaging yourself deeply before exercise will create such an intense muscle relaxation effect that you will lose explosiveness.”

Effects not scientifically proven

No scientific study to date proves that massage actually allows recovery. However, certain effects – such as improving blood circulation 1 – are proven without really understanding the exact mechanisms of action. “Massage in athlete recovery is something that is acquired, both by the practitioner and the athlete. And it's something that is so anchored in people's minds that, if we don't put our hands on an athlete, they won't feel well and will have concerns,” explains Vincent Jacquet. In any case, practicing sports does not stop at the event itself. With or without massage, it is essential to listen to your body and offer it recovery periods. Thanks to Vincent Jacquet, sports physiotherapist at Pôle Kiné Chenel , in Franconville.
1 Massage therapy improves circulation, alleviates muscle soreness | 2014, University of Illinois at Chicago |

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Reduces muscle fatigue and relieves cramps