Sports massage was designed for athletes, but is useful for anyone with chronic pain, injury or range-of-motion issues. Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons.
But you don’t have to be in the Olympics or even in a recreational league. You can even be a clicker-control athlete to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage is also good for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion. The massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area.
The benefits of Sports Massage are many. It can help reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and event preparation, and through deep tissue massage. It improves range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance. Sports massage allows for recovery times to be shortened between workouts. This allows the athlete optimal training. Massage also maximizes the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow and enhances the elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.
In a sports massage, Swedish massage techniques are used to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids and warm up muscle tissue. Then, trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles). Passive Range of Motion and Myofascial release techniques may also be used to enhance and increase range of motion. Many other techniques can be employed for healing, wellness and enhanced performance. A massage therapist will need to be trained in many tools to offer sports massage at his/her practice.
Sports massage can be divided into certain subsets. These are
- Pre-event sports massage — a short, stimulating massage 15 – 45 minutes before the event. It is directed toward the parts of the body that will be involved in the exertion. Getting it ready to perform at its optimum level. You will generally see a massage therapist’s tent set up at the event to receive this.
- Post-event sports massage — given within an hour or two of the event, to normalize the body’s tissues. It will settle the nervous system and return the body to a state of homeostasis. This session is also short and, as with pre-event sports massage, it is generally offered at the site of the event.
- Restorative sports massage — given during training to allow the athlete to train harder and with less injury. These are done in half hour increments and during shorter sessions focus on the area of the body the athlete over-uses. In the longer treatments, the therapist will work on the entire body to help detoxify the systems and tone the muscles.
- Rehabilitative sports massage — aimed at alleviating pain due to injury and returning the body to health. These are generally done in shorter, more frequent sessions and can be used in conjunction with or after an athlete receives physical therapy allowing the sports-enthusiast to return to the training field sooner than if the body was left to heal itself.