What is Sports Massage Therapy? Dispelling the myths….
Sports Massage is the management, manipulation and rehabilitation of soft tissues of the body including muscles, tendons and ligaments.
The prime purpose of sports massage therapy is to help alleviate the stress and tension which builds up in the body’s soft tissues during physical activity. Where minor injuries and lesions occur, due to overexertion and/or overuse, massage can break them down quickly and effectively. Above all, it can help prevent those niggling injuries that so often get in the way of performance and achievement, whether one is an athlete, ardent keep-fitter or a once a week jogger.
This treatment is not just for the sports person but to anybody wishing to guard against or recover from a soft tissue injury: including people in physically demanding jobs and those not quite so obvious (occupational, emotional and postural stress may produce many similar characteristics to sports injuries).
Sports massage is particularly effective in treating minor soft tissue problems, relieving niggling aches and pains before they develop into more serious overuse injuries. It is also great in the pre-event situation, whether your needs are for your relaxation or stimulation, and in post-event relaxation and recovery. Finally, it is good for the general relief of stress and tension and for fatigue, whether this is occupational, recreational or sporting!
How does sports massage differ from therapeutic massage?
Sports massage tends to be deeper and more intense. It is based on the various elements of Swedish massage and often incorporates a combination of other techniques involving stretching, compression, friction, toning, and trigger point response techniques similar to Acupressure and Shiatsu. The skilled therapist brings together this blend of techniques, knowledge and advice during treatment, to work effectively with the client to bring about optimum performance and to provide injury-free training and minimise post event injuries.
The sports massage therapist may also advise on stretching or strengthening exercises as appropriate to work in conjunction with treatment.
What are its benefits?
Sports massage offers individually tailored treatment and advice to:
- help relieve the stress and tension which hinders the achievement of optimum performance
- reduce the likelihood of injury during exercise
- speed up the recovery process and aid rehabilitation after injury
- ensure full range of joint movement and increase muscle flexibility
- improve postural and general body awareness
What happens during a treatment?
Your treatment will commence with a consultation. During this time the nature of any problems you may be experiencing will be discussed and your individual requirements will be determined prior to commencing any physical treatment. Your consultation may also involve a full postural assessment and range of motion testing to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Once the nature of your problem has been determined, a treatment plan will be devised, ensuring this takes into account your lifestyle, leisure activities and general health. There will usually be a minimum of 30 minutes treatment on your first visit following on from the consultation.
It is advisable to bring a pair of shorts with you to your consultation and follow-up appointments as you may be required to undress down to your underwear.
Children under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult.
Treatment can take the form of any of the following methods:
Sports & Remedial Massage: Pre/Post Event, Rehabilitative/Maintenance
Sports massage is a form of massage which is growing in popularity. It is used by athletes, both professional and amateur, as well as many non-sporting individuals due to its many benefits.
Sports massage is used to help keep muscles supple and toned. It helps to keep joints mobile and helps to improve sporting performance and flexibility.
Pre-event sports massage can help to reduce the risk of injury from sprains, strains and muscle tears. Post-event sports massage can help aid recovery following physical activity. This is achieved by reducing post-exercise soreness, re–establishing full range of motion and enhancing blood flow to tight muscles.
Remedial massage can be used in the treatment of specific injuries, such as hamstring strains, as well as to help correct muscle imbalances, overuse and postural issues…
It is these issues which should be corrected in order to prevent future injuries and improve the efficiency of our muscles and so enhance our performance. A regular remedial massage can help prevent injury by improving the condition of the muscles.
Massage has a number of benefits for physical, physiological and psychological well being:
- Improved circulation and lymphatic flow
- Assist in the removal of metabolic waste
- Sedate or stimulate nerve endings
- Increase or decrease muscle tone
- Increase or decrease muscle length
- Remodel scar tissue when required
- Pain reduction
- Anxiety reduction
Postural & Joint Assessments
A postural assessment identifies any imbalances that may be causing (or likely to cause) you musculoskeletal problems.
Using a variety of techniques combined with stretching and strengthening exercises, it is possible to assist in improving your posture. Postural improvements can help with sporting performance and general health and wellbeing.
A joint assessment involves testing the functional movement available, the strength of the muscles involved in those movements and the functionality of the ligaments. The injured and non-injured sides are compared to pin-point the exact nature of any injury or weakness you may have.
Soft Tissue Treatments
As well as massage, there are many other soft tissue treatment techniques that can be used during your treatment plan.
Dependant on the nature of your injury or issue, it will depend on which of the soft tissue treatments will be applied in order to gain the most benefit. The types of other treatments include:
Myofascial release – This hands-on technique seeks to free the body from the grip of tight fascia, or connective tissue, thus restoring normal alignment and function and reducing pain. Mild, sustained pressure is applied to gently stretch and soften the fascia.
Soft Tissue Release – This is a combination of stretching and pressure techniques applied to specific muscles where muscle fibres are congested or restricted.
Trigger Point Therapy – This is a technique that involves the application of pressure to tender muscle tissue in order to relieve pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body. Trigger points are areas of tenderness in a muscle.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and Muscle Energy Technique (MET) – These are forms of flexibility treatments that involve both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted to help strengthen them and lengthen them, respectively.
Cryotherapy & Heat Therapy – Advice on the uses of cold and heat therapy in the treatment of your injury.
How often should I have a sports massage?
As often as you like (provided that you are not suffering from any condition for which massage is contra-indicated – ask your therapist if in doubt). Some people find that a weekly massage helps to control their stress levels, while others find that a maintenance treatment every few weeks works well.