Workout After a Massage?

{For several years, Bill hosted "Massage Moment", a radio spot nestled within Lionville Natural Pharmacy owner Ben Briggs' Saturday morning radio show, Health Focus on WCOJ. These 3-to-4-minute gems covered topics ranging from stress to common bio-mechanical injuries, to answering questions such as 'should I get massage before or after chiropractic?'

Listen to the audio here, aired originally in 2007.}

Q: How long should I wait after a massage to work out or exercise?

A: Well, the answer to that question depends on what type of massage you've received.

For instance, if you've just received what I call a froo-froo massage ... you know, a massage that doesn't really get too far below the surface of the skin ... you're probably not going to experience any problems going from the massage table to the weight bench.

But, if you've received a deep-tissue massage, which means your therapist has been working on those layers of tissue located beneath the superficial muscles, then you'd be better off waiting at least four hours before throwing yourself into any strenuous activity.

The reason for this is because deep tissue work, in a way, re-injures the muscles. Or, maybe a better way to put it ... is that deep tissue re-opens old injuries in order to re-activate the healing process. This process of revisiting an old injury places the soft tissue in a particularly vulnerable state.

It would be similar to .. if you had an old kitchen chair that needed repairing. And let's say someone tried to repair it before, but didn't do a very good job, so now the wood-joint is starting to open again and the chair is becoming wobbly.

In order to fix the problem, first you have to clean out all the old glue and duct-tape. Then you re-glue the surface an refit the joint, clamping it until the glue dries.

But what would happen if you sat down on the chair before the glue is fully cured? It would break, and you would quickly find yourself sitting on the floor surrounded by chair parts! Simply put, the new repair was not ready yet to handle the work load.

The same principle applies to skeletal, muscle and other soft-tissues.

When I go into deep-massage-mode, I'm breaking up an old injury that maybe didn't heal quite properly. Then, with a series of techniques and stretches, I 're-assemble' the area. But that doesn't mean it's ready for a work-load yet! The area has to be given time to settle and heal. Sometimes, depending on the injury, a full day is required after the massage. And, it's important to allow the body the time to heal. (You may think of it as down-time, but the truth is, your body is busy finishing repairing itself.)

Again, not all massages have this effect.

In fact, some massage techniques are quite helpful just prior to an athletic event or workout. Light vigorous work with lots of tapotement and surface vibration brings blood to an area and loosens up the body, making for an improved cardio-vascular function.

As always, it's better to err on the side of caution. Ask your therapist questions, and after that, listen to what your body has to say.

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