Therapeutic sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance and aid in quick recovery. Many elite athletes consider sports massage an essential part of their training and recovery routine. They rely on it to help them train more effectively, improve performance, prevent injury and speed their recovery after strenuous exertion.
All that being said, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to get a therapeutic sports massage! It’s ideal for anyone who’s physically active – as well as someone who’s just starting out with a new workout program at the gym, running their first 10K or marathon, or doing anything else that’s outside their normal activity routine. If you’re a novice athlete, a pre-event sports massage can make a better, less-painful event for you. Or, if you’re a “weekend warrior”, a regular therapeutic sports massage may be just what you need to concentrate on a specific problem (sports or otherwise), chronic pain or a restricted range of motion.
There are four types of sports massages:
- Pre-event Sports Massage - A short, stimulating massage before an event. It is directed towards the parts of the body that will be the most heavily involved in exertion.
- Post-event Sports Massage – Usually this takes place either an hour or two after an event. The objective is to normalize the body’s tissues and prevent stiffness or soreness.
- Restorative Sports Massage – Takes place during training to allow the athlete to train longer, harder and with less possibility for injury.
- Rehabilitative Sports Massage – Should take place on a regular basis and is designed to either alleviate pain, increase range of motion or to restore the body to health.
Because every sport and athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way, there are a variety of methods used to administer a therapeutic sports massage. Generally, this is a type of massage often combined with various forms of stretching. A sports massage will stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids and may include one or more of the following techniques:
- Deep Swedish massage – Long, broad and flowing strokes which may be used before, during and after any of the techniques listed here. Designed to increase circulation and remove toxins. It also re-aligns the muscle fibers to get them back to their normal state.
- Deep Tissue massage – Muscle-specific massage for chronically tight or painful areas.
- Trigger Point massage – Designed to break down adhesions and increase range of motion. Left untreated these tender points often lead to restricted and painful movement of entire body regions.
- Lymphatic massage – Stimulates lymphatic-drainage pathways, which improves the body’s removal of excess fluids in the tissues that cause swelling and pain.
- Compression Massage - A rhythmic compression into muscles to create blood flow and to soften the tissues. This is usually a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.
- Cross-Fiber massage - A friction technique used in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups. This helps reduce adhesions (knots in the muscles) and creates strong and flexible repair during the healing process.
Whether you’re a serious or an occasional athlete, enjoying less muscle pain and stiffness as well as improving your sense of well-being is good reason to take advantage of a regular therapeutic sports massage.
To get the most benefit from a therapeutic sports massage, be sure and ask your therapist about their training and techniques to learn what is right for you. And, no matter what type of massage you choose, the therapist should always check in with you about your needs and expectations during the massage.