A sports massage is a hands-on massage that mobilises and manipulates the soft tissue and myofascial structures to prevent and relieve injuries that manifest as a result of repeated physical activity, like sport. Depending on the sport, and where the pain is, a sports massage session will often involve direct compression to the soft tissue through squeezing the skin and muscle, and applying cross-fibre friction to the problem area.
A sports massage can also be used as a precursor to manipulative treatments of the joints in the spine. Sometimes, a sports massage is used as a pre- or post-workout massage to warm up the muscles before exercise, or to increase flexibility and reduce soreness after exercise. How often you have a sports massage depends on personal and sports-related needs.
A sports massage is designed to support and enhance the performance, recovery, and relaxation of people who are frequently and/or intensely physically active.
Let’s break down why this is good for your team in more detail.
1. Pain Relief & Injury Recovery
As well as decreasing tension in the muscles which can aid pain relief, massage releases endorphins, which can reduce the amount of pain that you experience.
Sports massages also help the body to sustain physical stress without damage, in order to speed up injury recovery time for athletes. This includes scar tissue breakdown — creation of scar tissue can lead to a higher risk of injury in the affected area, but a sports massage can break it down before that happens.
2. Remove Toxins
When the muscles are engaged for long periods of time, lactic acid can build up and toxins can begin to affect certain tissues (in the form of painful knots or muscle fatigue, for example). This can lead to a decrease in athletic ability, and impact wider athletic performance. If left untreated, it can even cause tissue damage over time that leads to poor circulation and tightness.
Sports massages combat this through loosening overworked areas to relieve lactic acid, and other harmful toxins.
3. Increased Movement
During a sports massage, the muscle tissue expands and stretches, allowing for stored pressure to be released and increasing flexibility and movement as a result. You might see this referred to as increased joint range of motion, or ROM for short.
This allows the athlete to move both correctly and with ease during training or in competition. Lack of flexibility causes the muscle fibres to adhere together, creating knots that limit the range of motion altogether.
Research indicates that even a 30-second session can improve hip-flexor range of motion.
4. Increased Blood Flow
A deep tissue massage causes your blood vessels to become wider, increasing the ability of nutrients to flow through, and toxins to “flow out” (i.e. be removed). This enhances the muscle area in a similar way to exercise.
Sports massages can also prevent or relieve delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), by enhancing blood flow and fresh oxygen to the injury area. This is essential for athletes, as DOMS prevents them from reaching their full potential through exercise-induced muscle pain.
5. Better Mental Health
Research shows that, after a sports massage, subjects have decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, and enhanced feelings of well-being — who can argue with that! A happier and well-rested team is a better performing one.
Not to mention that better sleep can encourage physical rehabilitation and better physical function, whereas little or no sleep has the opposite effect.
6. Enhanced Performance
All in all, a sports massage will lead to enhanced performance. With less fatigue and injuries, and better mental health and sleep, your team can be performing at their absolute best in no time. The best bit is that sports massages can be tailored entirely to your team, right down to the individual, to ensure all athletes benefit from the session.
The one exception to the rule? Athletes with bleeding disorders, recent surgery, fractured bones, open wounds, acute ruptured tendons or other underlying disorders, should consult their doctor before a session.
Written by Fox Chiropractic, specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injury or pain. For more information about their services, check out their website and book in for your first session in Wales.