Your Guide to Sports Massage Therapy
(Alt text: Female sports massage and physiotherapist working with a female athlete in the gym)
Why is there a masseur at every football game? Why do you see so many athletes recovering from injuries with tight elastic bands and professional massage therapy?
Massage therapy is considered to be alternative medicine, but for the sportsmen, it is an unavoidable and essential procedure that follows every game or workout.
What is sports massage therapy?
Sports massage therapy is appropriate for athletes of every kind. Exactly how; the technique, the outcome, can differ from sport to sport and comes with specific techniques and movements depending on the athlete's body, injury (in case of injury treatment) and the sport of choice.
Nowadays, a balanced training regimen consists of workout and massage therapy.
How does sports massage therapy work?
By focusing all the pressure, hand movements and essential oils or healing creams, massage therapists work sometimes work on focused areas of the body. Athletes of different sports overuse and stress different areas of their bodies.
Football players often need leg massages. Tennis players need to relax their arm muscles. By using repetitive, sometimes aggressive and pressured hand movements, massage therapists, relieve the pain, optimize the healing process and get the muscles back in shape.
- Pre-game (pre-workout) massage can prevent injuries and prepare the body for a hard workout or a competitive match.
- After-game (after-workout) massage can relax the muscles and help get back to the previous, resting phase.
- Injury massage reduces the recovery time and prepares the athlete for the next game/workout.
- Regular sports massage therapy improves flexibility, endurance, and performance.
Sports massage therapy targets muscle-tendon junctions, and that is why it benefits other modalities. It can be beneficial for everyone who is participating in regular physical activity, playing sports or running and jogging.
What types of sports massage therapy can you get?
Depending on your area of sports, injury and the opinion of the professional, you can get any of these types of massages:
- Muscle Release Therapy
- Deep Tissue Therapy
- Lymphatic Drainage Therapy
- EMS/TENS Therapy
- MediCupping Therapy
- BioMagnetic Therapy
Let’s look at each of these a little more deeply.
Muscle Release Therapy
Athletes of every sport rely on muscle release therapy as a recovery from sustained injuries and overused muscles.
Muscle release therapy relaxes the muscle and helps it get back to its previous form. It increases the blood flow and reduces the time of the recovery. Athletes visit massage therapists to improve their flexibility and increase mobility.
Massage therapists use their hands, but often address essential oils such as lavender-scented oils for maximum relaxation.
Muscle release therapy is the most common sports massage therapy that every athlete can benefit from. It reduces fatigue and swelling. By pressuring the specific points, this massage prepares athletes for a new activity or relaxes from the previous one.
Deep Tissue Therapy
Deep tissue massage is standard with both non-athletes and athletes. This massage pressures deeper layers of muscles. That is why massage therapists use it to treat patients with chronic pain and aches.
Athletes often have neck injuries, knee injuries, lower back pain, and leg muscle tightness. Deep tissue massage is perfect for such cases.
The difference between classic sports massage and deep tissue massage is that the deep tissue massage uses deeper and slower, harder or more firm movements.
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy
Our lymphatic system does not have a natural drainage, or pulsing, as our circulatory system does. We need to move and create the contraction of the vessel walls to flush the excess fluids and toxins out of our bodies.
You might have noticed, after a hard workout or a long day of walking, your knees start to swell. It happens because some of the critical lymph nodes are near joints. After the injury, surgery or hard pressure on the joints, the lymph nodes can't function correctly, causing swelling and ache.
Lymphatic drainage therapy is excellent for flushing out the swollen fluids and toxins. To prevent the deprivation of the injured area, you need to address it on time and heal the injury with massage therapy.
EMS (Electronic Muscle Stimulation) is often used to treat pain and aches, reduce muscle spasms and tone the weak muscles.
The electrical stimulation from the EMS unit causes muscle contraction. It is used to treat swelling, pain and stretched joints.
Therapists also use EMS therapy to re-educate the muscle, when its' having difficulties contracting. Such difficulties often occur within those who suffered a stroke or orthopedic surgery.
- EMS therapy is an efficient way to manage pain
- You can re-educate your muscles and boost the healing process
- Electrostimulation is not addictive, which makes EMS therapy an excellent alternative for pain killers.
MediCupping therapy is a relatively new method of massage therapy. It includes massage cupping and vacuum therapy. It's said that in ancient China, Egypt, and Greece, cupping was used for flushing the body of toxins and excess fluids.
You might've seen the process of cupping on brochures and TV commercials. The massage therapist will insert the flame into the glass cup and remove it before placing it on the body. The heat inside lets the cup acquire suction feature.
Individuals who seek relaxation, increased muscle flexibility, and healing will benefit from such procedures.
Magnets are not just fascinating tools that attract metal. They have a positive effect on the human body, and it's been known for a while now.
Magnets can move electric currents in our bodies, which can then aid the blood circulation. The blood will serve to carry oxygen-rich nutrients to various parts of our physiology, therefore attributing healing qualities to the use of magnets.
BioMagnetic therapy starts with essential and soothing oils. The process is similar to cupping and vacuum therapy, due to the suctioning.
The number of suction cups depends on the patient and therapist. A professional therapist will decide if the athlete needs more suctioning to relax the muscles and leave them on the body for about 15 minutes.
What should you know before going for a sports massage?
As an athlete or a person who is searching for massage therapy after a workout, you should know some of these essential points when visiting the therapist.
Know your massage
You already know that there are different types of massages. BioMagnetic therapy and EMS therapy might sound exotic, but really think about if you need them or if you can safely go with classic deep tissue massage instead?
And if you're just reading this part, then you should know that some massages sound nice and relaxing, like a hot stone massage, but they have small effects on sports injury and muscle performance.
Choose the massage that is right for you depending on your needs.
Schedule massage carefully
If you're new to sports massage, you should schedule a pre-workout massage a week before the actual workout or game. Getting a massage about 48 hours before the physical activity can result in numb muscles and soreness. You might think getting thorough massage relatively close to the actual event you are preparing for would be a good thing, but often athletes find that the deep massage releases toxins that take a few days for your body to process and can hinder your performance instead of improving it.
Go hydrated to massage session.
Many don't realize this, but preparation for a massage doesn't only include showering and scheduling. You will also need to keep yourself hydrated because most of the sports massages will flush out the toxins and excess fluids from your body.
You will need to have your body's healthy fluid levels prepared.
You won't get a spa session
A nice relaxing spa session with relaxing massage and aromatherapy is not part of the sports massage. It's a part of another experience with high-quality equipment and professional hands.
Going to the sports masseur/masseuse, you should expect something more like a medical treatment, a bit of pain and deep tissue massage.
Don't depend only on the massage therapist
Sports massage therapy is a relieving procedure, and you should definitely address a therapist if you're feeling stress in your joints. But remember that your massage therapist is not your doctor, and if the injury sounds a bit more severe than just a stretch, you should address your MD.
You will feel sore
And it's normal!
Once you get off the massage table, you will feel a bit sore. Don't be scared and just wait for the effects of the massage wear off.
In about 48 hours, you will come out of the feeling of the soreness and even feel like a new person.
Take care of yourself after the massage
Soak in an Epsom salt bath or lavender-scented saltwater. Take a personal day and relax after the massage procedure. Don't stress your body all over again.
Implement massage therapy into your workout plan
Whatever your goals are, a flexible body, toned muscles, weight loss, or just an active lifestyle, you should consider implementing massage therapy in your lifestyle.
Professional athletes know how essential massage therapy is for the health of their muscles. But if you're a newbie, are working out or are recovering from an injury, you should know that massage therapy can aid in your fast recovery, muscle performance improvement, and overall health.
Talk to a professional and schedule your procedures. Follow the steps and make sure that your therapist has high-quality, modern massage equipment.
By knowing what kind of massage therapy there is for the athletes, you will know which one is the best for you. Keep yourself updated and implement new things in your routine.
Note: These statements have not been confirmed or endorsed by the FDA, and are the opinion of the author. Massage King and it's staff are not medical doctors or practitioners or trained professionals, and has posted this blog article here as a service for reference for those who are interested in this type of content, but does not necessarily endorse or confirm these statements. Please contact your medical provider for professional medical advice if needed.