If you’re a high-performance, dedicated athlete, then you know the lines you’ve crossed to push your body beyond its limits. You’ve poured long hours at the track, gym and training centres to reach your goals. This might mean that injuries, whether minor or major, aren’t new to you.
And even if you’re only starting to work out or do sports, physical activities can wear your muscles out from time to time. With this, sports massage therapy is getting more popular among active people.
What is sports massage, you ask?
To initially clear things out, it’s not something you get from a relaxing spa. It is mainly given to serious athletes and gym-goers for rehabilitation, flexibility and injury prevention. Let’s learn more about it below and how it can benefit your healthy lifestyle!
The Basics: What Is Sports Massage Therapy?
Sports massage, also called sports massage therapy, is a form of massage that manually manipulates the muscles and connective tissues to relieve tension. This means that it’s not quite soothing as you might expect and can often be strenuous.
This is why it’s mostly geared toward people with a physically demanding lifestyle. It includes serious athletes to help their bodies prepare for athletic events and recover from injuries.
Moreover, it helps them enhance an athlete’s range of motion and flexibility for a safer and more efficient performance.
Some elements of sports massage can also be used to treat conditions not related to sports, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Massage Techniques Used In Sports Massage Therapy
There are about 11 massage techniques used in sports massage. However, the most popular ones include the following:
In petrissage, the sports massage therapist applies circular strokes using their hands or palms to squeeze body muscles. This is to manipulate the muscles underneath the tissue layers, with or without using any oils.
The technique is also known for eliminating waste products from the body, reducing cellulite and enhancing blood circulation.
Also known as stroking, effleurage involves applying the right pressure to various areas of the body by sliding the hands, fingers, elbows or thumbs. This technique is used by sports massage therapists to get familiar with a client’s sensitivity and trigger points.
It is the first technique used to get the body in condition for petrissage and warm up the tissues.
This technique is also referred to as rhythmic striking. With light and brisk rhythmic strikes using the ulnar part of your hand, tapotement helps athletes feel invigorated before an event. It stimulates nerve endings, boosts local blood circulation and loosens muscle contractions.
Sports Massage vs Deep Tissue Massage: What’s The Difference?
Lots of people often confuse sports massage with deep tissue massage, and usually for good reasons.
First, both of them mostly use similar techniques using kneading, circular motions and slow strokes to reduce muscle tension. Compared to an ordinary massage you’d get from a spa, these therapies can be intense in some cases.
But the key difference between the two is their main purposes. For instance, sports massage therapy is used on athletic individuals to help them heal and prevent injuries like hamstring strains when they’re competing or training.
On the other hand, deep tissue massage can benefit anyone who suffers from various muscular issues. In this scenario, this massage is ideal for people who experience injuries like back and neck strains.
Benefits of Sports Massage Therapy: Why Should You Get One?
If you happen to be an athlete reading this article, you might be wondering why sports massage therapy is more ideal than any other type of massage. This is because it can be significantly beneficial before or after a rigorous workout and athletic training, especially if you’re aiming to avoid major injuries.
Take a closer look at the most important benefits you can receive from sports massage:
Every athlete, especially the seasoned ones, knows what it feels like to constantly train every day of their lives. You are always encouraged to do your best, reach the top of the ladder and outperform your competitors in each match.
However, daily training can sometimes take a toll on your overall physical performance. Your body may feel limited when it experiences tense muscles and ligaments, which can be inevitable most of the time. Moreover, as you age, your body gradually becomes less flexible.
This is why sports massage therapy is highly recommended for athletes. It can relax tense muscles, improve your performance and increase flexibility. You get to swim further, run faster and walk longer, among other things!
Reduces Psychological Tension
When you’re participating in an athletic competition, you probably feel a lot of pressure to perform well and bag the win. Besides, the mental stress you undergo on a regular basis just to improve your athletic performance is no joke either.
The state of your mental health ultimately dictates your performance. Like any other massage, sports massage therapy comes with several psychological benefits that can put you at ease before an event.
It releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins that improve your overall well-being and alleviate anxiety. Basically, it acts as the body’s natural pain reliever.
Helps With Recovery
A sports injury is a part of the game. You get out there on the field welcoming the possibility of getting injured no matter how well you may perform.
And when you do get injured, the recovery process can be unbearable and painful. This is where sports massage comes into play. When you receive it after two hours of taking an injury, it promotes a positive effect on the body by repairing the damaged tissue and muscles.
Through a massage, your muscles can return to their relaxed state without developing painful trigger points. You’d get back into training in a heartbeat like nothing ever happened!
Lessens Muscle Pain
Every time your body undergoes a physically demanding exercise, it uses oxygen to power your muscles. However, the oxygen needed to complete your exercise routine may not be enough.
This results in the production of lactic acid or lactate which makes your muscles ache and sore when you wake up the next day.
There’s no need to fret because your body will eventually get rid of lactate and other toxins. But powering through a big competition when you’re suffering from muscle soreness may put your performance on the line.
That’s why getting sports massage therapy right after a training session is the ideal choice. Your liver can eliminate lactic acid more efficiently and help your body become less stiff and sore after extensive training.
Four Types of Sports Massage Therapy You Should Know
Now that you know the benefits that come with sports massage, let’s examine its different types that cater to various kinds of athletes. Check them out below:
Pre-Event Sports Massage
One of the main purposes of a pre-event sports massage is to prepare an athlete for training sessions and competitions. It reduces muscle tension and stimulates enough blood flow and nutrients to the muscle.
This massage is also given to athletes so they reduce their chances of suffering from serious injuries. About four hours are needed to perform a pre-event massage where light techniques like fiction, tapotement and effleurage are applied.
Keep in mind that this is just a light massage to prevent the muscles from being too sore. There may also be an ‘inter-event’ where athletes get massages during a break to get rid of lactic acid and tend to small injuries.
Post-Event Sports Massage
A post-event sports massage should be given to athletes within 72 hours after their games or vigorous training sessions. Depending on the condition of the athlete’s body, it can take between 15 to 20 minutes or more.
Why should you wait for 72 hours to pass? The answer is this delay is necessary for athletes to recover, rehydrate, cool down and stretch before getting a post-event treatment. While you wait, you can also try going for an ice bath!
The massage is best known for treating and preventing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It also facilitates the removal of metabolic wastes, lengthening the muscles for increased movement and treatment of acute pains.
Maintenance Sports Massage
If you’re wondering what productive things you can do during your off-season, getting a maintenance sports massage is the answer. It is often used to improve an athlete’s coordination, strength, posture, biomechanics and stress patterns, to name a few.
What’s more, this type of sports massage gives the athlete and their therapist a chance to identify how they can create significant changes to up the game. It allows the athlete to relax physically and mentally while increasing their flexibility and muscle nutrients.
Sports Massage For Rehabilitation
As an athlete, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than skipping a game because you’re badly injured. Fortunately, sports massage for rehabilitation can help you recuperate from sports-related injuries in no time.
Along with the medical staff, therapists will create a recovery program that involves different massage choices. The massage therapist will use techniques that could greatly aid in recovery, like vibration and tapotement. It would remove toxins and scar tissue while also improving blood flow to a body’s injured area.
How to Prepare for a Sports Massage: What Should You Expect?
It can feel a bit overwhelming to get a sports massage if you’ve never had one before. So, to help you abandon the fears of attending your first appointment, here are some preparation tips you may consider:
Verify If Your Sports Massage Therapist Is Qualified And Licensed
Anyone can call themselves a sports massage therapist. However, that doesn’t truly give you the assurance that they are qualified and licensed to do the work.
Before booking a sports massage appointment, make sure that your prospective therapist has undergone proper training. If possible, ask them about their previous work experience and educational background. You can also search for them online and find reviews or testimonials to check if they are reliable enough to work with.
Wear The Right Clothes
When getting a sports massage, ensure that you’re wearing the right clothes for maximum comfort. You have to wear loose clothing—like shorts or tank tops—so your therapist can easily access the areas of your body that need to be massaged and treated.
Keep in mind that you will be using a clean towel to cover some areas of your body to avoid feeling too exposed. Make sure that you also shower beforehand if possible!
One of the most important things you have to know about sports massage therapy is that it can be dehydrating. If you don’t drink plenty of water before you hop on the table, it can stiffen your muscles which can lead to a painful massage.
Moreover, if you’re someone who’s prone to cramps, you should drink beverages that are high in electrolytes. This includes watermelon water, electrolyte-infused waters and smoothies, among others.
Eat A Light Meal Beforehand
Skip heavy meals before your appointment! You won’t feel comfortable at all if you are going to spend a huge chunk of your session lying face down with a full belly. It might make you feel sick and lethargic, which defeats the purpose of getting a sports massage.
Most importantly, metabolic processes like digestion tend to slow down during a massage. Meaning to say, your body won’t do a perfect job of breaking down the foods—it will just be stored as fat.
It’s Okay To Feel Sore
Don’t worry if you feel a bit tender and sore after a sports massage. It just means it’s working. The soreness you may experience is a normal response to the mild inflammation as your body tries to heal. But within 48 hours, the tightness should gradually subside and give you the magical feeling like you’re in a brand new body!
There you have it, folks! Whether you’re a serious athlete or a dedicated gym-goer, muscle strains, soreness and injuries will always be in the cards. It can limit you from doing what you want and leave you with acute pains that can kickstart your off-season sooner than you expect.
The good news is, sports massage therapy is the best partner for your active lifestyle. The healing powers of this therapy remain unparalleled, helping thousands of athletes maintain their optimal performance on the field.
If you’re interested in getting one, RAW is here to lend a helping hand! We offer proper breathing mechanics, manual therapy and comprehensive body analysis to personalise the session just for you.
No matter where you are on your active journey, our team of talented therapists is more than ready to assist. Together, we can create changes and guide you in reaching your career aspirations. Book a free consultation with us today and start a healthier lifestyle with RAW!
What should you avoid during a sports massage?
When it comes to sports massage, there are unwritten rules you should always keep in mind, including:
- Don’t turn up late.
- Respect the policies implemented such as clothing guidelines and rules on health & safety.
- Refrain from asking your therapist extremely personal questions. Don’t cross anyone’s boundaries!
What are the advantages of getting sports massage therapy?
Getting a sports massage helps you increase your flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, lessen recovery time and minimise psychological tension.
How often should I get a sports massage?
We recommend that you book a regular appointment to maintain the health of your muscles. Just always remember that this will still depend on the intensity and frequency of your training.
Discuss things with your therapist beforehand and mention your activity level, goals and body condition for better results!