I?m interested in having regular sports massage but have been put off by reading numerous features by academics that say it doesn?t work.
I?m not prepared to waste time and money on something unproven, but if it is rubbish why do pro riders make such a big deal about regular sessions on the couch? I?d be interested in your views.
James Tatler, email
You are indeed right that there is a body of research which suggests that massage has fewer benefits than riders believe. However, the effects of massage are difficult to test and many of the most frequently cited pieces of research have had either weak protocol or have been testing the wrong thing.
Many of the benefits commonly trotted out are false, which doesn?t help the case for massage. The most frequently heard one is that massage helps to ?remove lactic acid?. It doesn?t. Lactic acid is removed by the body as part of its energy producing cycle. The best way to disperse lactic acid is a good warm-down.
However, there are plenty of benefits to massage, which will mean that you are certainly not wasting your money. Regular massage does, anecdotally, reduce the likelihood of injury. This is mainly because seeing a regular therapist can help both of you become aware of your body, so any imbalances or tightness can be rapidly spotted and dealt with before they become an issue.
Massage helps to break down scar tissue and realign fibres after hard exercise as well as increasing circulation through the muscles. There is definitely a perceived increase in recovery and less leg soreness, though once again the mechanism for this has been hard to prove. There is also the psychological element of having someone look after you and help condition your body. Pro riders use the massage couch as a wind-down session and as a chance to go through what?s bothering them.
Finally, a good massage can help calm and relax or help to bolster confidence and bring you ?up? for competition. Seeing the same masseur/se at regular intervals is the best way to gain maximum benefit.
Fitness editor. Hannah has a sports degree and many years? experience of cycling for fun and racing at all levels