What is a Sports Massage?

By September 15, 2016Fitness, Health
sports massage

By Michael Simmer BS, CSCS, LMT, FST

Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after an event and/or function at high levels during training. This style of massage was ideal because it emphasizes prevention of injuries to muscle and tendons while promoting healing of general muscle injuries. As the fitness and massage industry has grown so has the demand for sports massage, it is no longer just for athletes but now it is beneficial for everyone who is active.

Sports massage is great for those suffering from injuries, chronic pain or those who have restricted range of motion. The differences between sports massage and a regular Swedish massage is that the therapist will generally concentrate on a specific problem area rather than performing a full body relaxation massage, if you want to fall asleep on a table do not get on a sports massage therapists table.

What Happens during the massage?

While sports massage still is considered a type of Swedish massage, it is different in that it is primarily being used to stimulate blood flow and aid in the breakdown of lymphatic fluid in the problem area or areas. Many Sports Therapists will use what is known as trigger point therapy during their sessions, this type of therapy is essential for breaking down adhesions often called knots in the muscle and is the therapist’s best tool for increasing range of motion.

There are 4 main types of Sports Massage

  1. Pre Event: This is a short duration massage that uses quick strokes and is concentrating on parts of the body that will be most used during the event, and is usually best down between 15-50 minutes prior to the event start time, and can also include some light assisted stretching.
  1. Post Event: This is a somewhat slower massage but still fast enough to stimulate blood flow and healing to the muscles again focusing on the major muscles that were used during the event. This massage is best given within 1 hour after the event, and can be performed as soon as 10 minutes after the event, stretching and cool down is encouraged before receiving post event massage work. Post event massage helps return the tissue back to normal.
  1. Restorative: This is performed during training and is often required due to muscle cramping or fatigue. This type of massage can help prevent injury while training and also allow the athlete to continue their training while staying at a high level.
  1. Rehabilitative: This is the most common type of sports massage for the active population, it is aimed at alleviating pain due to an injury or fatigue from over training and can also help with general muscle soreness that is associated with working out and is beneficial to all weekend warriors out there to keep their bodies healthy and performing at a high level, while reducing the risk of injury.

So when is the right time to get a Sports Massage?

A Sports Massage is a good choice if you have a specific problem, such as, a tender knee from running, lack of range through the shoulder, or back pain that mimics sciatica symptoms. Another good time is generally whenever you notice a change in your movement pattern, meaning that something just does not feel like it normally does whether it was from exercise or just sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. Sports massage can relieve you from muscle pulls, cramps and even help with reoccurring headache or sciatica pain.

Timing of a sports massage will always vary to some degree, depending on how much time a person has prior to an event or what they must do after an event, for those of us just getting worked on after a hard few days of training plan on the massage lasting between 30 and 45 minutes depending on which area is being worked. A therapist will be able to help alleviate that common muscle soreness but for any type of chronic pain or injury multiple sessions would be required in order to help facilitate the healing process.

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