As an athlete, do you ever find yourself not completely prepared for the competition? You know you’ve put so much time and effort into road work or hardcore constant repetition to make sure your well trained machine of a body will be able to withstand every level of stress that is issued as its next challenged! Within all of the training and sound quality nutrition, there is something missing within the program that keeps you from peaking to become your ultimate gold medal standard self. Would you believe it could be this simple? Like a soapy sponge that simply needs to be wrung out. Allow the art of Sport Massage and Swedish Massage Treatment to keep you finely tuned and revved up like the ultimately conditioned athlete that you are. If you feel you deserve to win or just make the greatest improvements you can possibly make, then this is what we can do for you!!!
Here are a few ways:
- Massage therapy focusing on muscle systems relevant to a particular sport.
- A deep tissue massage – often around the joints – for treating specific muscle groups.
- Designed treatment to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment.
All of these definitions are quite different. Some talk about the muscles and joints involved in sport, others talk about different types of massage used at different times of training. In different ways, each has some truth. However, I think it is impossible to define sports massage in one or two sentences in a glossary of terms.
So what can we truly call “sports massage?”
It must be the techniques, right? Are there special ones used ONLY on athletes? Nope! In reality, the sports massage techniques I use are no different than I’d use on any client who comes in my door, and many of the techniques I use were not taught to me as “sports massage”, but rather as myofascial therapy or therapeutic stretching.
What I’m getting at is the techniques alone don’t make it a sports massage. The most important thing that makes it a sports massage is the approach we use as a sports massage therapist. To be a value to our athletes as a sports massage therapist, we must apply these 4 areas of knowledge to the athlete’s situation:
- The basic biomechanics of the sport our athlete is participating, to know the common areas of myofascial strain they will encounter in training and competition
- Exercise physiology, to know what techniques can be used before, during and after competition
- The healing process of the body, to know what techniques can be used in what stages of injury
- Functional assessment techniques, so we can identify soft tissue structures that are not functioning properly (either short, long, or weak)
Here’s what these four items look like in practice:
- Biomechanics of the Sport: Let’s say I have one of my track & field athletes coming in for a recovery massage during the indoor track season in February. First off, I need to consider what event(or events) the athlete performs. The strain of sprinting is much greater on the hamstrings than for a distance runner, who will commonly have IT band issues from the tight turns on an indoor track. This is also very different than the strain encountered by a high jumper or long jumper. Understanding these factors of their specific event allows me to personalize the session to what their body needs.
- Exercise Physiology: How close to competition am I seeing the athlete? A general rule of thumb is to avoid deep tissue work 2 days prior to competition. I will educate my athletes when I work on them that they may feel a little soreness the day following the massage, but not to worry, this feeling will go away the following day, so they won’t worry if they wake up with sore legs. Also, I don’t want to give them a relaxation massage right before their event. I have been fortunate to work at number of NCAA track and field championships and I am amazed at some of the techniques I see. I have seen therapists performing relaxation techniques (slow effleurage) to the athlete’s legs and even their neck and shoulders a short time before they are scheduled to compete. Stimulating their parasympathetic nervous system at this time could be a detriment to their performance!
- Healing Process: Often, I will see an injured athlete soon after the injury has occurred, with the hope that I can do something to reduce their pain or shorten their recovery time. Again, educating the client is key. It would be very wrong to perform transverse friction over the site of a recent muscle strain, but there are other techniques in my toolbox that can provide benefit in the acute phases of injury, such as lymphatic drainage and positional release techniques.
- Functional Assessment: If someone comes in to see me with a diagnosis of shoulder impingement, that only tells me where the injury is occurring. It is more beneficial to their recovery (and my efficiency) if I have the knowledge to perform a few simple assessment tests to determine the root cause of the dysfunction. One scenario is shortness in the pectoralis major that is pulling the glenohumeral joint anteriorly, out of it’s normal alignment. Another may be weakness in the serratus anterior that does not allow for full upward rotation of the scapula during shoulder abduction. The site of pain is a symptom, find the cause!
In applying this approach, sports massage is in fact a form of what we call orthopedic massage, but highly specialized to a subset of our population (athletes).
The term “Swedish Massage” refers to a variety of techniques specifically designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. This form of massage was created at the turn of the century by Henry Peter Ling in Sweden. It involves the use of kneading, stroking, friction, tapping, and vibration and may provide relief from stiffness, numbness, pain, constipation, and other health problems. The main purpose of Swedish massage is to increase the oxygen flow in the blood and release toxins from the muscles. Other possible benefits include stimulation of circulation, an increase in muscle tone, and a balance of the musculo-skeletal systems. Swedish massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissues of metabolic wastes. It increases circulation without increasing heart load.