Massage therapy is a popular treatment in sport and also among the general population. It focuses on treating soft tissue problems. Massage is commonly used to treat muscle tension and general aches and pains that typically arise from stress, injury, pain, poor posture or movement dysfunction.
Sports and remedial massage can be used before and after sport and as part of a regular routine to help you maintain performance by preventing increased training stresses developing into longer term injuries. However, you don’t have to be a sports person to benefit from massage. We treat many individuals with, for example, physically demanding jobs or postural problems where this more intense treatment can deliver real benefit.
Sport and remedial massage can be used for the general relaxation of the musculoskeletal system as well as being directed into local problem areas, thereby reducing pain and improving recovery. Massage can help increase blood flow to the lymphatic system, improve circulation, relieve pain and aid relaxation to enable quicker recovery from injury and high training loads as well as preventing further injury.
When to use sports massage?
The demand for Sports Massage continues to grow as today’s athletes, both recreational and professional, recognise its potential benefits. Effective massage is considered an important component in performance enhancement and recovery during periods of high training loads and intensive competition schedules. As training loads increase, a point is reached where the body is no longer able to fully recover between sessions, and performance may level off and eventually decline. The symptoms of incomplete recovery of the musculoskeletal system are muscle pain, joint pain, and inflammation. Therefore, appropriate Sports massage can help when used before and after sport, or for regular maintenance.
Injury prevention & Maintenance
Assist tissue healing following sports injuries
Although athletes use pre-event massage to prepare for training or competition, there are complete contrasting needs and reasons as to why. Pre-event massage can be used psychologically, to positively psych-up the athlete, or in direct contrast used to induce relaxation, reduce mental stress and anxiety levels of the athlete. Studies have demonstrated that athletes who receive pre-event massage believe they have performed better on physical exertion tests than those who didn't undergo the therapy. Psychologically, some athletes establish a habit and consider pre-event massage as part of their normal routine when preparing for an event. Regardless, the psychological effects of massage must not be underestimated. Alternatively, pre-event massage can be used to physiologically stimulate and excite the athlete’s bodily systems in preparation for vigorous activity. The type and nature of the event will dictate the need, and thereby the types of stroke used their speed, depth and intensity.
While there are psychological benefits, post-event massage is primarily used for its physiological benefits in helping the athlete to recover more quickly after intense periods of training or competition. Many authors claim that post-event massage can provide benefits and effects such as increased circulation and nutrition to damaged tissues with increased removal of wastes and toxins, i.e. improved fluid exchange. Other reported benefits and effects include, reduced muscle tension, increased range of joint motion, decreased neurological excitability, an increased sense of well being and deactivation of symptomatic trigger points.
A very important benefit of post-event massage is that a quicker and more complete recovery enables the athlete to undertake training sooner. Subsequently, this means that increased training loads are possible, thereby potentially offering that extra edge or marginal gains over their competitors. Whereas, failure to fully recover can often lead to over-training and result in reduced performance and increased susceptibility to soft tissue injury. Some studies have demonstrated post-event massage to reduce the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is predominately attributed to eccentric muscle activity. Many athletes claim that post-event massage, through the removal of wastes, reduced muscle tension, and an improved feeling of relaxation, which often leads to an improved sleep patterns – thereby further enhancing the recovery process. However, optimum recovery relies on post-event massage being complimented by appropriate stretching exercises and the rapid restoration of fluid and muscle glycogen stores – which should be strenuously encouraged by the Sports Massage therapist.
Regular, routine massage can help injury prevention in various ways. Firstly, regular massage facilitates ongoing dialogue between athlete and therapist to discuss potential problems. It is claimed that regular massage improves the general condition of soft tissues, through enhancing tissue elasticity and pliability. Furthermore, regular massage may help prevent formation of adhesion and improve mobility of scar-tissue.
Crucially, regular massage offers the therapist a very important opportunity to identify any soft tissue abnormalities, signs of overtraining, which – if left untreated – could progress to injury and loss in performance. Typical symptoms of incomplete recovery (overtraining) of the musculoskeletal system are muscle pain, joint pain, tendon and bursa inflammation – accompanied by a decline in athletic performance. As most appropriately once described by a prominent therapist; “the hands-on sensitivity and touch become very powerful tools in diagnosis….to recognise those conditions which may need appropriate and immediate action”. On occasions, this may necessitate early referral to other professionals.
Repair & Rehabilitation
Therapeutic massage can be used to assist the natural healing and rehabilitation of various soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) at each successive phase of tissue healing following an induced sports injury.The phases of healing are universally known as; bleeding, inflammation, proliferation and remodeling.Clinically, the condition of the tissue should drive and dictate when and how to deliver massage. Therefore, it is understandable that a practicing Sports Massage Therapist should possess a sound knowledge of human anatomy, physiology and pathology and the ability to apply it when dealing with sports injuries. The research literature unequivocally states that the phases of tissues healing should guide clinical reasoning and decision-making with respect to what, when and how to deliver safe and effective massage.