Sports massage has gained much popularity as an effective tool to support better performance, recovery and injury rehab of athletes. In fact, many physical therapists and massage rehabilitation therapists now use sports massage as a manual therapy for speeding up the healing process of sports injuries as well as the prevention of re-injury.
What is sports massage?
Sports massage is a type of bodywork or technique geared towards athletes. It is used to help prepare the body for better performance, prevent injury and promote injury rehabilitation.
Sports massage is ideal for athletes because it targets the muscle and tendons within the body. Generally, this technique offers lots of benefits including:
- It helps to improve motion and flexibility.
- It helps to shorten recovery time after a sports session.
- It boosts the free-flow of blood to supply the muscles with oxygen and nutrients.
- It helps to eliminate by-products of exercise.
- It helps to relax and focus the mind for competitive sports.
- It helps to reduce pain from overworked muscles.
Sports massage is not a recent practice but a technique that has been used since earlier periods of history. As a matter of fact, sports massage has been a formal practice in the Soviet Union and Communist bloc countries since the 1960s.
However, the concept moved to Europe and the United States through sports and cultural exchanges in the 1970s. Today, sports massage has become widely accepted and it has been integrated into the training regimen of professional, amateur, and even college athletes.
Sports massage comprises three major categories including the pre-event massage, the post-event massage, and the maintenance message. However, three major forms of massage are commonly reported in sports medicine: petrissage, and deep transverse friction massage (DTFM), and effleurage.
The petrissage technique includes strokes such as kneading, wringing, and scooping, which are performed with deep pressure to patient tolerance. Deep transverse friction massage is performed using the fingers to apply force or pressure across the target tissue in a transverse manner. The effleurage technique is used throughout a massage routine and they are performed by applying gentle strokes along the path of the muscle.
Sports massage for better Performance
Sports massage has been well-studied to be effective for increasing the range of motion of various joints.
The pre-event massage is a common technique used to boost performance. It helps to prevent sports injury by warming up the muscles, stretching them and keeping them flexible for better athletic performance.
The pre-event massage targets the major muscles involved in a sports activity. It stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles and reduces tension. This loosens the muscles and produces a feeling of psychological readiness.
Further, the maintenance sports massage also helps to increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscle. Not only that, but it also keeps the tissue loose to allow easy sliding of different muscle layers over each other. This technique is often performed using deep effleurage and petrissage, and it is done at least once to the back and legs while the athlete is in training.
Sports massage for recovery
When athletes exercise heavily, the muscles often suffer microtraumus. This can cause tiny tears which leads to small amounts of swelling in the muscle. However, sports massage has been an effective measure to help athletes recover from intense sports activities.
The post-event massage helps is a technique used to reduce swelling caused by microtraumas. It is usually given 1-2 hours after the sport session is over to help dilated blood vessels return to their normal condition.
More so, the post-event massage helps to speed up the recovery time of athletes. It targets stiff muscles and loosens them up to reduce cramping and maintain flexibility. This allows the muscles to get a free flow of blood and waste products including lactic acid are excreted. More so, associated pains, strains, and soreness are all alleviated.
Usually, light petrissage is used to relieve tense, stiff muscles and clear away toxins while very light effleurage is used to decrease swelling. You can administer these post-event massages by yourself on some parts of your body, such as your legs.
Sports massage for Injury Rehab
Athletes often suffer from sports injuries, particularly muscle injuries which usually come with cramping or aching pains. Sometimes, these injuries often resolve with cessation of activity, but sports massage has been an effective tool for speedy injury rehab.
However, it is advisable to consult a sports rehabilitation therapist before performing any massage to treat a sports injury. This is imperative to avert the aggravation of certain joint and ligament injuries that needs expert attention.