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  • Writer's pictureMeg Donnelly

Will Massage help my Post-Op Recovery from a Sports Injury?

When it comes to massage for recovery post-surgery, there are some claims you might read in articles that we used to think were true. But, various studies and scientific research has shown us otherwise. Here, I’ll break a few down by topic, discussing what we know, what we don’t and how each may or may not be used as a complement to your existing recovery plan.

Blood Flow & Circulation Claims of blood flow and circulation are many times overstated. For instance, walking actually provides more circulation than massage. That doesn’t mean that massage doesn’t promote circulation at all, just that your exercise and physical therapy programs during your recovery probably promote more circulation than massage. So adding massage for this benefit alone, may not be the best use of your resources. Transverse Friction & Scar Tissue Massage Transverse friction claims of reducing scarring, breaking up scar tissue or preventing scar tissue are a grey area at best. My philosophy though is while they may or may not assist, transverse friction many times feels good over areas of scar tissue and can give the feeling of release or give the feeling of loosening restrictions, even if there isn’t any actual change. Also, it can allow you to get more comfortable with the site of your scar, so you may find that massage helps you guard the site less or helps you become more confident in movement around that area. Lymphatic Massage & Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) As for Lymphatic Massage, I like it because it’s lighter than other forms of work, so many times you can be cleared for LMD sooner than you can for other types of body work. I am not trained in LMD or Lymphatic Therapy but know and trust Massage Therapists right here in Northern Virginia that are trained in Lymphatic Therapy . . . if you are looking to try it out or have questions, let me know and I’ll refer you to a Licensed Massage Therapist who specializes in this work. Our understanding of the lymphatic system is in an exciting phase as we are learning more recently and uncovering areas of the Lymphatic system we didn’t even know existed less than a decade ago. That being said, some of the claims are based on theory vs research or studies. While we may not have robust research or studies, I still refer out to a Lymphatic Massage Therapist for those right after surgery as again, for me, it’s about finding ways to allow you get comfortable with your body post surgery and assist you in getting back to your pre-surgery life. Anxiety, Stress & Recovery One area where massage has lots of studies backing it, is stress and anxiety reduction. And other research has shown that the body heals more quickly when there is less stress and anxiety present. Separately, research shows that, for many injuries, movement early on may assist in recovery. So if massage helps you get more comfortable in movement, assists you in finding your old range of motion, and reduces some of the stress and anxiety from the injury, that’s a triple win! Combining Massage into your Overall Recovery Plan Remember, your medical team (orthopedist, physician, specialized doctor, physical therapist and/or occupational therapist, etc) should be your leads for your recovery with your massage therapist working within their recommendations for your recovery. Massage therapists do not diagnose or treat illness or disease. Massage therapy is strictly defined in Virginia as the treatment of soft tissues for therapeutic purposes by the application of massage and bodywork techniques based on the manipulation or application of pressure to the muscular structure or soft tissues of the human body. Whether you choose to schedule with me or another Licensed Massage Therapist in Herndon, Reston or anywhere in Virginia, your Massage Therapist should not be making medical claims or working against your other team of health professionals. If you have additional questions about recovery from a running injury, sports injury, knee surgery shoulder surgery or any other post-surgical or post-op questions in regards to massage therapy, please feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to discuss or refer you to additional resources.

📸 credit: Jennifer Heffner Photography

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