According to research published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," expect to feel sore after intensifying your workout, lifting more than you’re used to, adding reps to your workout, trying something for the first time, or working your muscles in an unusual way. The soreness is usually a good thing and means your muscles are building. Several types of massage can ease postexercise soreness and relax you at the same time.
Why Massage Works
Massage reduces inflammation and stimulates cell repair, which helps muscle cells recover from injury, according to a study published in "Science Translational Medicine" in 2012. What this means it that massage helps muscles adapt to increased exercise, says Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky, the senior author of the study. So the next time you’re sore, don’t pop an aspirin, says Tarnopolsky, since pills can adversely affect your muscles by masking inflammation and soreness.
Deep-tissue massage targets the deeper layers of your muscles, where soreness typically begins. This type of massage can help relieve your pain symptoms and also help you feel more relaxed, since your body will release more serotonin in response to the massage. Serotonin is a natural chemical produced by the brain that creates positive feelings. Your massage therapist will do most of the work on your body. You have to move very little.
Sports massage therapists will vigorously rub your entire body, kneading your muscles and increasing circulation, which can support postworkout muscle repair. You’ll do some of the work during a sports massage, stretching and working your muscles. This work maximizes the benefits of the massage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sports massage can also help reduce your anxiety, which may help if you’re training for something like a marathon.
Instead of working entire muscle groups, trigger-point massage focuses on specific areas where you feel the most pain. This type of massage can ease muscle injuries by loosening tight areas. You may feel sore the day after this style of massage.
A less vigorous massage style, Swedish massage relies on gentle strokes and circular motions to ease your soreness and help you relax. Most trainers would recommend a different style of massage, though Swedish may work for you, depending on your pain level.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.