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Sports Massage Therapy for Recovery and Injury Rehabilitation

Recovering from an injury requires a lot from your body. Many people know of the benefits of completing physical therapy after surgery, but did you know that therapeutic massage can also greatly aid in your recovery?

When we injure our body, it immediately begins reacting instinctively to limit the amount of damage. Muscles become tight, the area becomes inflamed, and scar tissue begins forming. While these things may help our body prevent further injury, it doesn’t exactly help the body heal efficiently.

When you undergo surgery, each of these factors can hamper your recovery process. This, coupled with a period of limited use or complete immobilization to allow the injured area to heal, can lead to big decreases in flexibility and strength.

This is where therapeutic massage comes into play. One of the earliest therapeutic tools used to relieve pain, massage therapy can be used to treat numerous conditions, such as musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. By manipulating both superficial (close to the skin) and deeper muscle layers and connective tissue, therapeutic massage can elicit several positive results:

1. Improved joint range of motion and enhanced function of the injured area

After suffering from an injury, most people will suffer from a limited range of motion. For both acute (new) and chronic (long-lasting) injuries, different massage techniques can help relax and strengthen the muscles and joints. By regaining your lost range of motion and increasing the flexibility of your muscles, your body can work and heal more efficiently. Adding massage therapy into your rehabilitation program also significantly decreases the likelihood of future injuries and impairments.

2. Decreased pain and muscle reflex reactions

Several studies have looked into the benefits of massage therapy in reducing postoperative pain (1). Many surgeries will require a period of immobilization, like wearing a cast or a sling. Once this is removed and your restrictions are relaxed, it can feel painful to move your joint again. Many will also feel anxious about moving their joint again, worried that they are going to damage the newly-repaired area. Luckily, massage therapy has been shown to improve both pain and post-operative anxiety among many patients who experience unrelieved postoperative pain (1).

3. Ensures better flow of oxygen and nutrients to injured area

Blood helps distribute nutrients and hormones throughout the body. By stretching the connective tissue, massage therapy can boost blood circulation, enhancing the healing ability and increasing tissue metabolism. It can also influence how much of certain chemicals are excreted, including phosphorous, sulfur, and nitrogen – important chemicals needed for the body’s tissue to repair itself.

4. Accelerated healing through proper lymphatic drainage

Enhanced blood circulation isn’t the only healing property of massage therapy. After an injury or trauma, a build-up of metabolic waste products and toxins often occurs within the lymphatic system, which can prevent healing from occurring and increase swelling in the injured area. Massage promotes the stimulation of the lymphatic system, increasing the rate at which these waste products are removed from the body.

5. Increased relaxation (body and mind)

When a muscle has been damaged, the surrounding muscles naturally tighten and restrict movement – this is unconsciously done to protect the body from further damage. Unfortunately, tight and tense muscles not only increase the pain felt but also the stress we experience. Massage therapy helps to repair the muscle, which in turn encourages the surrounding muscles to loosen and relax. By relieving the muscle tightness and tension, your pain and stress are decreased, allowing both physical and mental relaxation. Additionally, therapeutic massage has been shown to produce local biomechanical changes, which can potentially reduce anxiety, depression, and pain through the increase of serotonin and endorphins (2).

6. Shortened recovery time

Studies have shown that intense exercising can cause a build-up of waste products within the muscle, including lactic acid and carbonic acid. When circulation is increased to these muscles post-exercise, this toxic debris can be eliminated more efficiently, allowing recovery time between workouts to be shortened and reducing the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS (3).

7. Reduced scar tissue formation

After an injury has occurred, our body forms adhesions across our damaged muscle fibers to repair damaged tissues. Unfortunately, these adhesions often cause restricted movement and prevent the healing process. During a massage, an increase in temperature in the affected area allows these adhesions to broken down more easily, allowing your therapist to realign the fibers to a more natural state. This in turn increases movement, reduces tightness, and allows healing to improve.

If you are injured, massage therapy can be just what you need to ensure a fast recovery. An orthopedic massage with our team can be a great way to promote healing and reduce pain and soreness from a recent injury or surgery. To start your journey to recovery, contact Arthritis & Sports in Sterling, VA to schedule your individualized massage today!



  1. Mitchinson AR, Kim HM, Rosenberg JM, et al. Acute Postoperative Pain Management Using Massage as an Adjuvant Therapy: A Randomized Trial. Arch Surg. 2007;142(12):1158–1167. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.142.12.1158

  2. Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull. 2004;130:3-18

  3. Standley RA, Mille MG, Binkley H. Massage's Effect on Injury, Recovery, and Performance: A Review of Techniques and Treatment Parameters. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2010;32(2):64-67. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181c33918



Arthritis & Sports is the premier orthopaedics practice in Northern Virginia. Our team of specialty-trained physicians offers the latest treatment options for the full spectrum of orthopaedic sub-specialties - all under one roof.


From nonsurgical treatments like orthobiologics and physical therapy, to massage therapy and  nutrition counseling, we are dedicated to providing you with exceptional care from injury through rehabilitation.

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