Sports Massage: An underutilised but powerful recovery tool!

Sports massage is ubiquitous in elite sport and is gaining popularity amongst the amateur athletes. The proposed benefit of a sports massage is improved recovery, thereby preventing injuries and improving performance. Sports massage is considered as a great tool for improving flexibility and mobility, reducing muscle tension, increasing muscle blood flow and thereby reducing muscle soreness.

But I am sure there always has been this question at the back of your mind!!!

What’s so different about sports massage?

Well, it is true that regular massage and sports massage may employ some similar techniques. However, there are significant difference, the most notable being that traditional massage tends to have a fixed set of routine strokes aimed at relaxing groups of muslces like quadriceps, hamstrings etc. This isn’t the case in sports massage which is aimed at addressing and treating every athlete for their own specific problem. Sports massage focuses on the dysfunctional are to assist healing of tissues worn out due to the workloads they have been exposed to. The area of focus for the sports massage depends on the athlete’s sport. The technique used to treat this particular area also depends on the objective to be achieved. For example, the sports massage therapist might focus on the lower body for a marathon runner and address tightness around hips and calf muscles whereas, concentrate over the upper back, lower back and quadriceps for a weightlifter.

Sports massage can primarily be categorised as follows depending upon the aim of treatment.

  • Restorative sports massage during trainings allows the athletes to train hard with a reduced risk of injuries
  • Rehabilitative sports massage aims at alleviating pain due to a specific injury
  • Pre-event sports massage is a short, stimulating massage directed towards those parts of the body which will be involved in the sport.
  • Post-event sports massage helps in promoting proper recovery of the body after having been through physical stress

When there is increase in physical exertion; be it in sport or due to change in training, muscles tend to suffer micro- trauma. This indirectly affects the entire muscular kinetic chain leading to an increased risk of injuries. Sports massage removes the metabolites and the lactic acid thus allowing the muscle to receive ample amount of oxygen and nutrients required for its recovery and healing.

Apart from these biomechanical and physiological benefits, sports massage can also assist in mental well-being of an athlete thereby enhancing their performance. Chemical hormones like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin is released during massage which can help the athlete deal with emotional stress.

Some people might experience discomfort during and after sports massage, however a good therapist can reduce such unpleasant experiences through constant feedback and assessment of tissues. Massage therapists work on different layers of the tissues starting superficial and going deeper into the lower layers of musculature which is why they are also sometimes referred to as deep tissue therapists.

Of course the best way to understand the benefits of sports massage is to experience it!

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