Updated: Feb 11
Sports massage can sound like an intimidating treatment for some people. I often hear, “Do I need to be a professional athlete to get a sports massage?” when I tell people what I do. The short answer is, “No.”
Sports Massage is a pretty broad term, and I believe that it can apply to a wide range of people. Yes, professional and elite level students-in-training are often the kind of movers you see in a sports massage setting, but it has the potential to help so many more people.
What is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a style of massage that incorporates deep tissue techniques, myofascial trigger point release, muscle scraping, stretching, and sometimes the use of cups or Kinesio taping within the context of what I call a “mover”. That is someone who is highly active day-to-day to improve in their selected activity. This could apply to any of the following:
Elite level Athletes in organized competitive sports
Amateur athletes of all levels
So many more!
How does Sports Massage Improve Performance?
Sports massage has the potential to improve performance, prevent injury, and recover from injury in several different ways. The following are the techniques I use.
When muscles are tight due to stress, poor posture, body mechanics, or overuse, they form what are called trigger points. Trigger points are taut bands within a muscle that cause referred pain (pain that is felt elsewhere in the body.) These trigger points can cause reduced power or mobility, pain, and have the potential to cause injury.
Figure 1. Illustration of a Trigger Point. [Elsevier]
When these trigger points are released, the muscle is then able to go back to a homeostatic state of performance. That is, it can “fire” at its optimal level. That means that you will be able to improve strength, power, and mobility, whereas before these would have been inhibited. You can see how releasing these “knots” not only reduces pain and discomfort but can have a real effect on training outcomes and injury prevention.
Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese Medicine treatment that has bled over into modern Western Medicine. It uses a tool, usually a blunt knife-looking tool, to scrape the skin which produces increased localized circulation. There will generally be redness of the skin that goes away in a few hours to a day or two. This treatment has shown to improve performance specifically in weight training [Wang X, Eungpinichpong W, Yang J, et al. Effect of scraping therapy on weightlifting ability. J Tradit Chin Med. 2014;34(1):52-56. doi:10.1016/s0254-6272(14)60054-6], and has the potential to help many of those looking to increase strength.
Another aspect of Sports Massage is loosening fascia. Many athletes and movers use foam rolling techniques as part of their daily routine. This is a great tool, and often I incorporate foam rolling in my suggestions for at-home care between massages. However, there are a few other approaches to achieving and maintaining healthy fascia tissue.
Medium pressure Swedish massage has shown to loosen fascia through the use of heat and pressure.
Cupping is another Traditional Chinese Medicine modality that has gained popularity in mainstream medicine, especially in the treatment of athletes. Suction cups rapidly facilitate rigid soft tissue release, loosens & lifts connective tissue, breaks up, and drains stagnation while increasing blood & lymph flow to skin & muscles in ways not possible using traditional massage methods. Negative pressure, rather than tissue compression (as in traditional massage methods) is especially useful for pain, stubborn conditions, repetitive strains, and inflammation. A scientific review of cupping in Western Medicine can be found here.
FLEXIBILITY | STRENGTH | POWER | ENDURANCE
All these approaches are aimed at improving your flexibility (active range of motion), strength, power, and endurance, all of which contribute to a healthy active lifestyle. If you are looking to improve all or some of these elements, then Sports Massage is for you!
I believe that not all bodies are the same, therefore no two massage treatment plans will look the same. Your first visit with me will include an in-depth look at your health history, training regime, and goals. This is followed by a posture and gait assessment before the massage itself starts. That is why it is very important to arrive 15 minutes before your first session.
I look forward to answering your questions and helping you improve in your activity of choice!