Monday, October 12, 2009

Excessive Kneads

If the picture looks familiar, you are right, it has been taken from yesterday's Sunday Times (111009) Life section, page 9.

As the article pointed out, there are no published studies showing that too many massages are bad. However, let me share a true experience from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Our Team Singapore medical team consists of only a doctor and 2 physiotherapists (only) for the whole Team Singapore contingent. Besides looking medical and sports injuries' needs of the athletes, all three of us had to double up and do sports massage for the athletes as well (since we don't have a sports massage therapist with us).

One of our swimmers (who shall remain anonymous) insisted of receiving 3 sports massages a day (even after the competition). If it was before the competition and if time permits, I'll say no problemo. And if the swimmer came back with a medal, I'd say alright I'll do it (after the competition as well). But the swimmer was really quite far away from even making the finals so I said to the swimmer "if you get 3 sports massage sessions a day, does that mean you will swim 3 seconds faster?"

The swimmer stormed off and didn't speak to me for a few days. What I am trying to say is that yes, sports massage does have some benefits (if done properly and at the right time), but 3x a day? Through my experience of working with athletes, I know that some prefer (and can handle) a sports massage close to their really important events (1 or 2 days before). Others prefer 4-5 days before their big event. Now, every athlete is different and have different preferences. You all know that you shouldn't wear new shoes, running shorts, vests, etc before your race, well same for sports massage, nothing new or nothing you aren't familiar with.

One other comment though, caught my attention. The comment was made by a principal physiotherapist at a local hospital --"a massage using non-professional and forceful techniques can lead to problems such as nerve damage and cerebrovascular accidents such as stroke and bruising".

Personally, I feel that there is no justification at all for that comment made by the principal physiotherapist. Especially if you come to our clinic, our staff all all extremely well trained and experienced. If you search the current scientific databases, there is currently no documented or published evidence (in Pubmed, PEDRO etc) of such claims. A cerebrovascular accident or stroke involves arteries inside the cranium (or skull),so unless the massage therapist performing the massage fractures the cranium and so disrupts the blood supply, there is virtually no chance of a stroke happening.

As for nerve damage, it would really take quite a fair bit of force to inflict any "damage" to our nerves as nerves are actually quite hardy.

*Picture ST Photo: Terence Tan

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