What is a Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a type of massage that combines various massage techniques to relieve pain, tension, improve blood circulation, encourage lymphatic drainage, balance soft tissues, relax tight muscles, reduce effects of scar tissue and improve body awareness for the patient. It is also used pre, during and post exercise events to help to enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injuries from occurring.
What is the Difference between Sports and Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage is a type of massage technique whereby a therapist will apply firm pressure to reach deep layers of muscle, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue, in order to release tension and rigidity in tight muscles.
Sports massage incorporates deep tissue massage in combination with various other techniques depending on the needs of the individual client.
For instance light massage techniques would be used when an injury is acute, painful and inflamed, to help to increase the blood flow to the area, reduce swelling and relieve pain. A deep tissue massage would be used when inflammation and pain in the area had reduced.
Why have a Sports Massage?
There are many benefits to sports massage including improving flexibility, range of motion and blood supply. Beyond the physiological benefits it can also help with better sleep.
It can be used pre-event, during an event and post event:
It is generally best to schedule a sports massage 4-7 days before your event. Your therapist can get deep into those muscles to release any tension built up from training, while allowing enough time for your body to get over any soreness and fatigue experienced from the massage, as well as giving the muscles time to adjust or ‘recalibrate’. This is also an appropriate time as it is when athletes generally start to taper off their training.
A massage 1-2 days before an event, should be a light and relaxing Swedish or aromatherapy massage to avoid any residual soreness post massage. The focus should be on stretching and loosening up tense muscles.
Massages just before an event are quite quick and not too deep. The objective is to stimulate and increase circulation, thus warming the muscles up, getting the athletes pumped and ready for their event.
Massages during an event are usually no more than 10-20 minute ‘quick fixes’. As the event or game is still on-going, you wouldn’t want to get too relaxed. These sessions target or stiffness or cramps incurred during a game or match. They help relieve some pain or tension and aid in increasing range of motion for the athlete to continue for the entire duration of the event.
Immediately after an event, especially a long distance, endurance one, muscles might still be really sore, tender and inflamed, so a sports massage might not be the most beneficial, or comfortable. Instead, opt for a more soothing and relaxing one to calm those tight muscles. You will probably find a sports massage more effective and beneficial at least 24 hours after an event. You are in less pain and your therapist will be able to work into the deeper layers of your muscles to get them loose and supple again. Some might even prefer to schedule a hard session 2-3 days later.
Should you schedule a Sport Massage?
Many athletes already consider sports massage an integral part of their training. Leading up to and after an event, the time to schedule a sports massage can become more specific.
The frequency of scheduling a sports massage during your training phase would also depend on the intensity of your training, time and budget. On average, it would be ideal to schedule a session once a month, to at least work out tension and muscular waste by-products built up during your training. It can also be less painful when the sessions are scheduled as regularly as possible.