It has been over two months since Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening commenced. During this time of increased spare time and being cooped up at home, it is no surprise that more than a few of us have taken the old running shoes out or greased up the bike chain in a bid to get some much needed exercise.
On the flipside, many of you now find yourselves doing work at an inappropriate makeshift work station in your kitchen or dining room table as a result of the ”work from home” measures that many have to adhere to at this time. Perhaps, then, it is also no surprise that many of us have had a few old, and some new, injuries cropping up this period too. This can happen for a variety of reasons, chief among which are improper loading, over-zealousness with our exercise volumes and capacity as well as underlying lack of conditioning, and performing certain exercises without the proper form.
Over circuit breaker, when we were hampered by the closure of clinics islandwide, you may not have been able to get the required help at short notice and may have resorted to stretching, foam rolling or even complete rest in order to manage your issues. Now that clinics are fully operational, we are seeing a lot of cases of this type present to us with increasing requests for massage and sports massage to relieve pain or simply just to alleviate soreness and tightness. Essentially, while both massage and physiotherapy can help manage pain, there are still key differences that you should note!
Massage is one of the most ancient forms of musculoskeletal treatments. It is natural for us to veer towards it, either through a massage therapist or through the use of a foam roller, given its perceived effectiveness at reducing muscle soreness and improving our general wellbeing.
But just how effective is massage at improving our athletic performance and recovery? Well, in a recent systematic review (the highest level of evidence available to researchers), massage was found not to have any benefit on jumping, sprinting, strength, endurance, and fatigue. On the other hand, the same review showed some improvement to flexibility and muscle soreness. The studies analysed for these were however, of poor quality, which makes it is difficult to measure the true effects of massage and to quantify exactly the benefits it provides.
When it comes to pain or stiffness resulting from prolonged sedentary behaviour, there are other factors at play which may include desk ergonomics and a baseline lack of conditioning which predisposes you to pain. What we can likely deduce from these findings is that while there may be some benefits to massage therapy, the perceived benefits may mask a key underlying issue that is hampering your recovery.
What Can Physiotherapy Offer?
This brings me neatly onto why physiotherapy would be the right choice for you. For one, a physiotherapy session is always preceded with a comprehensive functional assessment of range of movement, muscle strength and biomechanics with further assessments of functional activities like running gait, hops, jumps, throwing etc. where applicable. Our treatments include, but are not limited to, exercise therapy, manual therapy, ultrasound, shockwave therapy, dry needling, as well as massage therapy, all with the intention of reducing pain, improving function and achieving the goals set out with your therapist. By getting a full assessment from your physiotherapist, you will have a much clearer and better idea of exactly how to manage your condition. With all these tools at our disposal, physiotherapists are in a brilliant position to decide the best course and direction of treatment for you. In certain cases, a condition may need further assessment, in which case we can also refer you to a trusted specialist so that you can get the best care possible. So, the next time that niggling injury crops up again which doesn’t seem to be abating, consider the option of an assessment from a physiotherapist at one of our five clinics.
This post has been written by Physiotherapist Conor Walsh B.Sc (Hons).
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Ref: Davis HL, Alabed S, Chico TJA. Effect of sports massage on performance and recovery: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine (2020); 6:e000614. doi:10.1136/ bmjsem-2019-000614