Sports massage is specifically tailored to meet needs associated with sports injuries or ailments. It may not be as relaxing as an average massage because the movements can be deep and intense. While sports massage is most often used by those who engage in sporting activities, including college and professional athletes, anyone can get a sports massage. In fact, it may be very beneficial if you exercise regularly—even if that exercise is as simple as regular walking.
Sports massage techniques will vary by individual and the particular sport in which they practice. The focus is on overused portions of the body that may be subjected to repetitive or aggressive movements. It can be used before or after a sporting event as well. It has been shown to increase endurance, help prevent injuries, and promote flexibility.
Defining Sports Massage
Sports massage is much more targeted and focused compared to “general” massage techniques. Your massage therapist will need to know which sport you are participating in, when an event may be, and what your goals are for the massage.
Sports massage is a preventative treatment as well, as a therapy that can be utilized after an injury. It promotes the health of overworked or frequently used muscles and connective tissues. It can help increase range of motion, as well as help with muscle symmetry and balance.
Sports massage triggers two general types of responses in athletes, which helps improve performance, decrease recovery time, and prevent injury. First, it activates a mechanical response from the pressure and movement. Then, it also generates a reflexive response wherein the nerves respond to the overall stimulation of massage. The combination can be extremely beneficial for athletes of all ages.
Using Sports Massage Effectively: Timing
Pre-event. Many clients use sports massage before a sporting event as a way to warm up and prepare their muscles. Sessions are often scheduled within an hour of an event; the duration and technique will vary depending on the body part and the activity. The process not only gets your muscles and tendons ready, but it can also help athletes prepare mentally as well.
Inter-event. Some athletes can benefit from a massage during a break from their sporting event, such as over halftime or between matches. This short session helps keep muscles warm and allows you to maintain flexibility.
Post-event. Athletes often use sports massage as a way to recover after an event. If performed shortly after the event, it can be an effective way to cool down. Even if it is not immediate, a massage can help decrease recuperative time after competition and minimize delayed onset muscle soreness. It can also be helpful to identify potential or new injuries as well.
Sports Massage Techniques
Some of the sports massage techniques vary from “traditional” techniques. They may include:
- Deeper tissue massage
- Effleurage (circular motions made with the palm of the hand)
- Use of friction
- Vibration or shaking
- Direct pressure
- Broad strokes
Sports massage often involves faster movements, which is contrary to a slower, more relaxing massage that you might get at a spa.
The technique used will depend on your massage goals, including increasing blood flow, increasing flexibility, or improving strength and endurance. Sports massage can also be used to stimulate neurological pathways.
You will need to explain your goals with your massage therapist so he or she can give you the most effective massage possible. Every session starts with a goal in mind, and the timing and techniques will often vary to fit a particular objective.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Sports massage offers a number of sought-after benefits for athletes. Massage therapy is never a guarantee of increased performance, but there is evidence that suggests sports massage can be an invaluable tool for athletes. For example, a 2010 study indicated that even a 30-second massage helped improve hip flexor range of motion. A similar study at the American College of Sports showed a connection between decreased muscle soreness and those who had a massage either before or after their sporting event.
Other sports massage benefits may include:
- Decreased anxiety or tension
- Improvement of mental focus
- Increased energy
- Pain relief
- Promote flexibility
- Increase blood circulation
- Treatment for injuries associated with overexertion
- Improve blood pressure and heart rate
- Relieve swelling
- Reduce muscle tension
Massage increases blood flow to promote circulation. A related effect is that the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood. This, in turn, can lower blood pressure, which allows many of the beneficial effects of sports massage to take place.
Sports massage can offer a number of benefits for athletes, whether you are a beginner or a pro. Virtually everyone can benefit from this unique type of massage. Contact Zen Body Therapy for more information.