How can sports massage nourish your soul?
Sports massage is a branch of massage therapy that is designed specifically for athletes. Unlike other types of massage, Sports massage is not intended for relaxation. Instead, strenuous techniques are used to stretch tight muscles and reduce the stress and tension that builds up in the tissue during exercise.
Sports massage is suitable for assisting with minor sporting injuries, to treat muscle soreness, increase flexibility and prevent injury. These may be performed pre, during or post exercise, and are tailored for specific sporting disciplines, injuries or conditions.
The history of sports massage dates back to the times of ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed in the benefit of massage therapy for exercise. Roman physician, Galen (AD 30 – 200), was known to prescribe massage for gladiators both before and after exercise. Today, sports massage is a popular choice for sporting professionals, and is widely used by athletes in elite sporting competitions around the world.
It is important to choose a therapist who is registered with a professional association to ensure the highest standard of treatment. These include Massage & Myotherapy Australia, Massage Association of Australia and the Association of Massage Therapists. Sports physiotherapists may also be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, which is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Members who are registered with these peak bodies are required to undertake continuous professional development and commit to upholding excellence in practice.
Benefits of sports massage
The overarching purpose of this therapy is to prevent and treat sports-related conditions. As such, sports massage may be of benefit to both amateur and elite athletes alike.
In a systematic review evaluating the effects of massage after strenuous exercise, it was reported that massage therapy may be effective for improving the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle performance. This is further supported by a large meta-analysis that confirms the beneficial effects of massage in improving DOMS as well as flexibility.
There is also evidence to suggest that massage therapy may be beneficial for recovery after exercise, rehabilitation following injury, and preparing athletes for performance.
Sports massage may assist in alleviating symptoms that relate to:
- Inflammation and swelling
- Mobility and movement
- Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
- Muscle strain and injury
- Neck pain
- Pain relief
- Sports injuries
- Sports performance
- Sprains, strains and ligament injuries
What to expect from a sports massage session
A collection of different massage techniques may be used by a sports massage therapist. These may include techniques such as effleurage (sliding, circular movements), petrissage (kneading and pressure techniques), tapotement (repetitive striking movements), friction (stroking in circular or linear motions) and vibration (shaking).
The specific combination of techniques used will provide different results. As such, your massage therapy session will provide you with individualised benefits that are dependent on your athletic needs. Your session will therefore differ depending on whether you are seeking a pre or post exercise treatment.
If you require a pre-exercise sports massage, your therapist may use techniques that activate the muscles and prepare your body for the upcoming activity. A pre-exercise massage will typically be done 30 minutes to two hours before the event.
In contrast, if you require treatment post exercise, your therapist may use techniques that increase blood flow, decrease inflammation and aid in muscle recovery.
Keep in mind that it is always advisable to consult a qualified health professional before commencing any wellness journey. If you have an injury or an underlying health issue, speak to your sports massage therapist, who will be happy to address these concerns and personalise the therapy session to your individual requirements.