What is a sports massage?

Sports massage uses a variety of pressure (often deeper, more intense and focused than in conventional massage) to speed up an athlete’s recovery time and help prevent injury.

Many athletes believe that a complete training program should include not just the exercise itself, but also regular sports massage.

A sports massage incorporates techniques from other massage styles and works to provide a deep and rehabilitating process that manipulates the soft tissue to prevent injury, elevate muscle or tendon pain.  Extremely beneficial to athletes, gym goers or even those that are desk bound between 9-5, a sports massage experience will vary from person to person depending on what their injuries or aggravations are.

Physical benefits of receiving a sports massage

From beginner athletes to elite competitors, massage therapy offers a variety of important health benefits.

Various bodies of research compiled by the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicate that massage therapy:

  • Reduces heart rate.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Reduces recovery time after an injury.
  • Rehabs an injury.
  • Lowers anxiety.
  • Improves mood.
  • Increases blood flow throughout the body, bringing vital oxygen and nutrients all over.
  • Relieves muscle pain and tension.
  • Improves connective tissue healing, which promotes muscle elasticity.
  • Stabilizes cortisol levels (a stress hormone, similar to adrenaline).
  • Improves muscle flexibility, which reduces and prevents injury.

What to expect from a sports massage

Your massage will begin with a variety of stroking movements (‘effleurage’) usually carried out with the whole palm of the hand and the fingers. This helps you become accustomed to your therapist’s touch, warm your body’s tissues and increase your blood flow. It will also help the therapist to identify any tender areas at the outset, so less pressure can be applied later on.

They will then use a technique called ‘petrissage’ – kneading designed to work on deeper tissues, to mobilize fluids, stretch muscle fibres and aid relaxation.

After this comes the ‘frictions’ technique – aimed at breaking down lesions and even scar tissue, and separating muscle fibres. Frictions might feel uncomfortable or even slightly painful, so don’t be afraid to tell your therapist to go more gently on particular areas.

Your body will undergo trauma during a sports massage, and while it’s likely you will feel sore for a few days, you may also feel cold as your body works to metabolize the waste products removed from the soft tissue. Drinking plenty of water and taking a warm bath will aid this process.

It usually takes 24-48 hours to feel the full effect of a sports massage after which you should feel comfortable, rejuvenated and refreshed.
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