A recent article in Massage Magazine caught our attention. It discusses arnica, and how arnica-infused products can help improve circulation. Today we’re summarizing that piece while also exploring how different groups of patients, specifically athletes, can benefit from improved circulation. For athletes, key benefits of a healthy circulatory system include an uptick in athletic performance. The benefits of arnica can be valuable for sports massage clients and others. Read on to learn more.


More Blood Flow is A Good Thing

We’ve all heard it before, but let’s review the specifics on why it’s important to have healthy circulation.

Numerous studies have shown how lack of exercise leads to poor health. Much of this is related to the circulatory system and the flow of blood through the body. When we sit for too long, we start to lose circulation to the extremities, and the organs don’t receive the nutrients they need, including fresh oxygen. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including blood clots, varicose veins, muscle cramps/numbness, leg ulcers, hemorrhoids, vertigo, dizziness, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure, among other health problems. Slow blood flow can also clog the arteries to the heart.

Smoking, diet, alcohol use, and lack of exercise all contribute to poor circulation. Tingling, throbbing, numbness, and muscle cramps in the extremities are signs of lacking circulation.

A Closer Look at Circulation

The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system; this pumping muscle is supported by arteries that carry blood away to the different parts of the body and veins, which bring the blood back to the heart. The cardiovascular system includes the systemic circulation system, which is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to the organs and muscles, and the pulmonary system (including the lungs), which replenishes the body with oxygen, and disposes of carbon dioxide when we breathe.

To return to our focus on sports massage, the athletic body requires that the circulatory system perform at its best, particularly when limits of endurance and performance are tested. The matter is simple: fresh blood distributes needed nutrients including oxygen. When proper oxygen is provided, there is less stress on the muscles, which leads to increased performance and less fatigue. Good circulation also helps maintain and stabilize body temperature, regulate pH, and remove cellular waste products.

Using Arnica to Improve Circulation

Massage (both long and deep strokes) helps increase blood flow to areas of the body that require repair, such as muscles and connective tissue. For athletes, sports massage can improve flexibility, reduce pain, decrease tension, and improve circulation. Incorporating Arnica in massage treatment may further boost circulation.

Arnica is available as a cream, ointment, gel, or oil from most grocery stores and drug stores. A study conducted by the Integrative Medicine Department at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center suggests that arnica can reduce inflammation and kill bacteria in animals; more research is required to determine if these effects arise in humans as well. Another 2010 study found that topical 20% arnica ointments reduce bruising more effectively than a placebo. A bruise occurs when small capillary blood vessels are broken and blood seeps into surrounding tissue. Improved circulation heals bruises by carrying away the “spilled” blood. By increasing circulation, arnica sports massage can help athletes achieve their peak performance. However, a potential downside of excessive arnica use is that it may be hard on the liver.

You can find a variety of arnica-related produces at the EWC Oregon massage school bookstore. We offer massage products including herb-infused oils, creams and gels. Many of these contain arnica and are suited for use to help increase blood flow and circulation.

In our Portland massage therapy school, we provide in-depth training on how massage increases circulation, and how it benefits different groups of clients, including athletes. If you’re interested in healing with your hands, call us today. We would be happy to provide a campus tour and answer any questions you may have.

Does Massage with Arnica Improve Circulation? Massage Magazine