In this post I want to talk about “What is Sports Massage?” as I feel that sometimes it can get mixed up with all sorts of other types of massage. I also think it’s important for you to understand the differences between sports massage and other types of massage so you can make an informed decision about which would suit you better.
For those that don’t know, massage is the process of applying pressure to parts of the body to alleviate pain or tension within the muscles.
But before I get started I want to be up-front and honest. I am a sports massage therapist myself but don’t let this influence any decision you may make.
A Brief History of Massage
It is believed that massage first dates back thousands of years but it was first depicted on the wall of a tomb in Egypt in 2700BC.
From that point on further references were found in the form of books and paintings all over Asia and India. It became an accepted part of medical treatment for various cultures and religions.
It wasn’t until the late 1770s that massage came to western Europe when a Swedish doctor called Per Henril Ling developed a system of massage called the “Swedish Movement System” which is regarded as the foundation of what we call Swedish massage today.
From that point on, massage has developed into several different disciplines and is becoming ever more popular.
Sports massage has been seen as something that every athlete needs from when it was first televised during the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.
Defining Sports Massage
“Sports massage is an effective and beneficial form of physical therapy, not only for active sports people or those requiring therapy after a soft tissue injury but also for those people seeking relief from muscle tension or requiring massage for the maintenance of healthy muscles.”
(Sports Massage – Ramela Mills & Shannon Parker-Bennett)
So essentially sports massage is a branch of massage that deals with issues that can arise from playing sport and are quite often related to a specific part of the body.
However, sports massage can also be used to treat injuries that have come about from non-sporting activities and also tension and issues caused by everyday life.
I also want to add that sports massage can be used to prevent injuries. Maintaining healthy muscles allows the body to move much easier and so makes it less likely that injury will occur.
Let’s take a look at the benefits in greater detail.
All the cells of the body need a good blood supply. Blood is required to remove waste that builds up within the cells but also delivers vital nutrients that allow them to repair themselves and grow.
Massage aids the blood to flow to where it is needed. The strokes that the therapist use are in the direction that the blood needs to travel (towards the heart).
In layman’s terms, the lymphatic system runs (in the main) along the circulatory system and so can be stimulated by using the same strokes as those that benefit general circulation.
The lymphatic system is there to process any waste that comes from the cells. This waste is normally created by cells that are damaged in some way or after exercise. As there is no pump to the lymphatic system (no heart) it uses the motion of muscles contracting and relaxing to move the waste.
Massage aids this process by manually moving the waste around your body.
After injury, bleeding occurs within the tissue. This is a natural part of the healing process but excess bleeding can cause the formation of scar tissue and in some cases the formation of bone within the muscle.
By massaging the area of scar tissue, the therapist breaks it down into more manageable chunks that allows the body to break it down completely.
Using massage after injury can also stop scar tissue from forming at all.
Adhesions and Fibrous Tissue
These are what you would probably called knots in the muscle. They feel like gristle under the skin and if, like me you suffer from tension in the shoulders you will definitely feel these just above your should blades.
Muscles fibres and tissues need to be able to glide over each other without sticking together. If they start to clump together you won’t be able to move as well which can causes issues elsewhere in the body.
When scar tissue starts to form in the muscles, it creates the perfect conditions for the fibres to start to stick together causing these knots.
These knots can become so large that no blood flow gets to them which again slows the healing process down even further.
A good therapist should be able to recognise where this is happening and apply pressure that will start to break them down.
This can sometimes be painful!
Sometimes a good stretch just won’t do the trick. Especially if the muscle you’re trying to stretch is impossible to get.
Massage can hit those hard to reach areas, stretching the muscle making your body feel loose and flexible.
Massage and in particular sports massage is a great tool to use when you are managing your health and fitness.
Not only will it help you when you are injured, it helps to remove tension from the body, makes you more flexible and helps to keep you from injury in the long-term.
However, don’t expect a sports massage to be all hot stones and candles. A good sports massage therapist is there to diagnose and treat specific problem areas allowing you to get back to your daily lives. It can a be a little painful as pressure is applied to trigger points but the therapist will ask for your feedback and change the pressure as needed.
I myself, have sports massage sessions on a regular basis and know many people that do the same.
I can’t recommend it enough.
Be all you can be
If you would like any other information about massage, please get in touch.