What is a sports massage?

Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. Sports massage emphasises prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons.

But you don't have to be and athlete to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage is also good for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion.

The massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area. Sore neck and shoulders, anyone? This is the type of sports massage that you see in the spa.

There are four types of sports massages:

  • Pre-event sports massage -- a short, stimulating massage 15 - 45 minutes before the event. It is directed toward the parts of the body that will be involved in the exertion.

  • Post-event sports massage -- given within an hour or two of the event, to normalise the body's tissues.

  • Restorative sports massage -- given during training to allow the athlete to train harder and with less injury.

  • Rehabilitative sports massage -- aimed at alleviating pain due to injury and returning the body to health.

What Happens During Sports Massage?

Sports massage is a type of Swedish massage that stimulates circulation of blood and lymph fluids. Some sports massage movements use trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles) and increase range of motion.

When Should I Get A Sports Massage?

A sports massage is a good choice if you have a specific problem -- a tender knee from running, for instance. It is also be a good idea to see a movement therapist, who can help you identify and correct the movement pattern that might be causing your injury in the first place.

The therapist generally focuses in on the problem area - a frozen shoulder or pulled hamstring, for instance - rather than giving you a full-body massage.

Sometimes men who are new to the spa are more comfortable getting a sports massage because it sounds more masculine. That's fine, even if they don't have an injury.

No matter what type of massage you choose, the therapist should check in with you about what your needs and expectations are for the massage.


Injury Prevention

Sports massage is the methodical manipulation of muscles and other soft tissues for the relief of discomfort and tension, using deep stroking techniques with pressures, frictions and stretching.

Sports massage has an increasing profile in sports medicine, offering benefits for all kinds of athletes, from elite swimmers, cyclists and footballers, to recreational golfers and joggers, and weekend sports enthusiasts. Sports massage is a deeper type of massage that works specifically with sporting and occupational injuries and ailments. Most of our clients are active people who come in for treatment to recover from injury sustained during sport. From a tennis elbow or snapping hip, to a twisted ankle or shin splints, sports massage provides relief from discomfort and aids rehabilitation and recovery. Many techniques are used to reduce pain, enhance performance, improve range of movement and aid recovery.

Better Circulation

Pumping blood and lymphatic fluids around the body. The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissues, as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.

Opening microcirculation. Massage does increase blood flow to tissues, but so does exercise - probably more! What massage also does do though is open or dilate the blood vessels and by stretching them. This enables nutrients to pass through more easily.

Relax & Release Tension

Massage addresses the muscle tissue directly and can assist the muscle in releasing its contraction, thus easing muscle tension. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that massage can help release contracted muscles and lengthen tight ones. Mayo Clinic concurs that massage might be useful in the treatment of stiff and sore muscles.

Rejuvenate & Recover

When we cajole specific muscles to relax and lengthen via mechanical and neurological input, we reduce their metabolic activity. When the muscle relaxes, it's not using energy as much, not metabolizing as fast, not producing waste products and because it's more relaxed, it's not compressed and not exerting pressure on surrounding tissues. This means circulation is better. It's not because we're pushing fluid around. It's because we've put the body in a more optimum state, so the body naturally increases circulation on it's own. By massaging muscles and adding input to the nervous system, we are facilitating the body in recovering faster from exercise.

Sports Massage is a special form of massage and is typically used before, during, and after athletic events. The purpose of the massage is to prepare the athlete for peak performance, to drain away fatigue, to relieve swelling, to reduce muscle tension, to promote flexibility and to prevent injuries.

The main purpose of sports massage therapy is to help alleviate the stress and tension which builds up in the body’s soft tissues during physical activity. Where minor injuries and lesions occur, due to overexertion and/or overuse, massage can break them down quickly and effectively. The massage will help prepare the athlete for peak performance, to drain away fatigue, to relieve swelling, to reduce muscle tension, to promote flexibility and to prevent injuries. Sports massage can help prevent those niggling injuries that so often get in the way of performance and achievement, whether a person is an athlete or a once a week jogger.

There are several key elements to sports massage. To better understand each of these, let’s look at them separately.

  • Motion and Flexibility: Professional and superior athletes often overtrain and this leads to muscle rigidity. Sports massage can help relax overly tense muscles and provide additional flexibility. Used before a competition, it will relax the muscles for flexibility, improving performance.

  • Shortens Recovery Time: Exercise and competition is stressful on the body. This will lead to injury if proper precautions are not taken. Sports massages are ideal to help the body deal with this stress and injury prevention. A proper massage increases blood flow and lymph fluid, both assisting in the body’s natural healing process, speeding waste removal and general health improvement. Swelling and inflammation associated with physical activity is also reduced. Scar tissue, normal from a severe injury, can be lessened with massage.

  • Supply of Oxygen and Nutrients: Blood flow into muscles is vital to creating new tissue and increased strength and stamina. Massage increases blood flow for additional oxygen and nutrients.

  • Helps Eliminate By-Products of Exercise: Lactic and uric acids are natural by-products of exercise. Each can be lessened with blood and lymph flow in the body and increase the waste output by a sports massage.

  • Psychological Benefits: There is much to be said about psychology and sports. Many do not realize the value of a massage with sports and how a quality massage has more than just physical benefits. The body is only as strong as the mind, so having a strong mind that is relaxed and focused is a definite edge in highly competitive sports. A stressed athlete is not nearly as capable as one with a clear mind.

  • Reduces Pain: A body in pain is a sign of overworked muscles and is not healthy. Massage increases blood and lymph fluid flow, thereby speeding the injury rehabilitation process. A massage also helps with pain from spasms and cramps, common with elite athletic training.


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