Sports Massage 101 - How Sports Massage Can Help Reduce Pain, Recover From Injuries and Improve Perf
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Sports Massage has been a buzz phrase for decades because of its potential to help athletes stay injury-free and perform optimally. And when you think about it, the name itself lends itself to popularity. The words "sports" and "massage" will make most people's brains respond positively, either on an unconscious and/or conscious level.
What is Sports Massage?
Sports Massage is a general term referring to the combination of a wide range of massage therapy techniques, specifically designed to enhance athletic performance and fitness training. These techniques include compression, joint range of motion, active and passive stretching, myofascial release, Swedish, deep tissue massage and other rehabilitation therapies such as Active Release and trigger point therapy.
Sports Massage can be broken down into three distinct categories based on when it is being used.
Pre-Event Sports Massage is done the night before or on-site the day of a competition or event. The goal is to increase circulation to the muscles, stimulate the nervous system, increase mobility of the joints and relax the participant. Range of motion and targeted active and passive stretching may be used based on the particular sport being performed and the primary muscles needed to perform them.
It is highly advised NOT to use deep pressure or get lengthy sessions during a pre-event sports massage because the body may respond negatively. Muscles needed to perform important and forceful movements can become sore and either overactive or under-active. This is why having a highly-skilled, licensed and experience sports massage therapist is essential.
Post-Event Sports Massage is done on-site shortly after or within a day after an event or competition. The goal is to relax and detoxify muscles, minimize muscle spasm, treat muscle cramps, maintain and restore flexibility, speed up the body’s natural healing processes, reduce pain and relax the participant.
The length and intensity to which a sports massage therapist should work depends on what type of sport it is and when the next competition will take place. If there is an event the next day, then perhaps using deep tissue massage might not be indicated. Likewise, directly following a marathon or triathlon it is almost never a smart idea to blast away, so to speak.
Having worked the medical tent at the finish line of the NYC Marathon for many years, I have seen this first-hand. Runners 90% of the time cannot handle deep pressure to cramping and heavily fatigued muscles. Doing so can actually cause injury, increase pain, impair healing, result in inflammation, worsen a muscle cramp and even induce nausea in the recipient.
So if you are an athlete competing in an event in which there will be massage therapist afterwards, be careful, especially if you don't know him or her. Getting a massage after an intense event is NOT the same as getting a deep tissue, maintenance style massage.
Maintenance Sports Massage is very similar to medical, therapeutic massage except that the main purpose is to help an athlete or exercise enthusiast enhance performance over the course of a season or training program and to help prepare for a specific event. The goal is usually to address specific injuries, aches and pains and to treat the muscles and joints primary to one’s sport or activity.
Sports massages for maintenance can be as frequent or infrequent as each person needs for his or her particular sports performance goals.
At On Your Mark Sports Massage and Fitness, we have clients who come in for sports massages weekly or every two weeks for months at a time and then taper off during less intense training periods. Other clients only need sports massage treatment once a month while others may need several per week if they are battling particularly stubborn and chronic sports injuries.
So be sure to find a sports massage near you, whether you live in NYC or somewhere else. It can help reduce your pain, prevent injuries and enhance or sports performance and exercise programing.