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Sports massage therapy

What is Sports Massage? A beginners guide

It is important that you don’t overlook your sports recovery process, especially if you are active or play any type of sport. Whether you are a beginner or a professional athlete doesn’t matter as exercising of any kind makes your muscles sore and tender, and you need to give your body the opportunity to repair properly. This is why most fitness buffs opt for sports massages as it acts as therapy for the body. However, unlike other types of massages, sports massages are quite different.

Sports massages are important for you if you have an active lifestyle, as it aims to prevent injuries, improve your athletic performance, and help with recovery. You can use this massage form during training, before your performance, after your performance, and for rehabilitation. It is no surprise that it is a popular choice amongst pro athletes. This article will discuss everything that has to do with sports massages from who can get one to the benefits of getting one. But first let’s take a look at what exactly sports massage entails, shall we?

What exactly is Sports Massage?

Sports massage is a form of soft tissue mobilization specifically designed to help people who are constantly physically active. You can apply it in both sporting and non-sporting circumstances as it caters to different types of people with varying lifestyles like those with chronic pain or injury. This form of massage manipulates the musculoskeletal system – ligaments, muscles, and tendons using different techniques for enhanced efficiency. Besides, sports massage, which was initially developed to help athletes recover after a big event and increase their performance, is widely used for multiple purposes like relaxation and injury prevention.

Sports massage therapists use various techniques such as effleurage, wringing, kneading, trigger pointing, friction, gliding, compression, and hacking to help reduce and release muscle tension, prevent lactic acid build-up, mobilize soft tissues, and improve blood circulation. You must note that the sports massage you get should depend greatly on your overall intent as there are different types of sports massage, each with its distinct goal.

Before you start your sports massage using the right equipment, your licensed massage therapist will have to evaluate your posture and ask you questions about your health and lifestyle. They also need to know what your goals are so that they can treat you accordingly – so don’t be startled when you are asked multiple questions.  This way, your sports massage therapist can concentrate on areas of your body that need the most attention. Besides, you should constantly communicate with your therapist during your massage session.

Types of Sports Massage

Timing is a very important principle of sports massage as the different types of sports massages are all related to timing.

  • Pre-event Sports Massage
pre event sports massage - future fit

This is usually a light, stimulating session usually given 24 hours before the event or competition and it is directed towards the areas of the body that will be exerted. This massage prepares you physically and mentally for top performance as it removes cellular waste, alleviates aching muscles, and speeds recovery.

  • Post-event Sports Massage

This session is focused on helping to normalize your body’s tissues so that it can restore to its pre-events conditions. Depending on the massage therapist, this massage can be given within 24 – 48 hours following the event or competition. Besides, this type of sports massage reduces recovery time, prevents muscle soreness, helps with circulation, and relaxes the muscles.

  • Training Sports Massage

This massage is usually given to pro-athletes between personal training sessions to reduce the risk of injury and recovery time. This type of sports massage is important as it addresses any inflammation or tension that may become challenging if not treated.

  • Maintenance Sports Massage

As an active person or a fitness buff, this sports massage is focused on reducing your recovery time between workouts by decreasing muscle tightness and the potential for injury. You should book bi-monthly or weekly sessions if you have a very active lifestyle but your massage therapist can also devise a treatment program based on your lifestyle.

  • Injury Rehabilitation Sports Massage
injury rehabilitation sports massage

This session is focused on recovery from any form of injury, whether acute or chronic injuries. With this rehabilitative massage, your body will return to full health in no time, as it breaks down scar tissue, alleviates pain, reduces inflammation, and returns muscle flexibility to normal. Plus, the chances of re-injury is reduced significantly.

  • Injury Prevention Sports Massage

This type of sports massage uses different techniques to assess areas of tightness and bio-mechanical imbalances in your body to provide treatments that will aid in rebalancing your body. Thus, preventing injuries from cropping up.

Techniques Used in Sports Massage 

There is no one distinct technique used in sports massage as the techniques used depends on the training of the massage therapist as well as your intent. Sports massage combines techniques from other disciplines like osteopathy and physiotherapy, and highlighted below are some of the commonly used techniques.

  • Effleurage (Stroking)

This stroking sports massage technique is very important as it has many purposes and benefits. Sports massage therapists use this method to spread different massage mediums like oils and cream on the body to warm up the tissues. The effleurage technique has a relaxing effect and it does a good job of stimulating the body depending on the application speed. Also, most massage therapists combine this method with others to work as a flushing procedure that helps lymphatic drainage and blood circulation.

  • Kneading (Petrissage)

The Kneading sports massage method, commonly referred to as petrissage, involves mobilizing the soft tissue in the body in different ways like squeezing, moving, or lifting. During this process, the massage therapist’s hand strokes apply pressure that employs a pumping action on the primary capillaries and veins, and as the pressure speeds up, blood and nutrient circulation increase. Besides, certified sports massage therapists regularly use this technique to aid in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the body, removal of waste products, and manipulation of body tissue.

  • Hacking

Hacking sports massage is a form of percussion massage technique used by most massage therapists. With this method, the hand’s borders are used to briskly strike the tissues in a bid to stimulate and soften the area. This technique is very common and there are percussion massage guns available in the market for you to use to massage yourself. Additionally, this sports massage technique increases muscle tone, softens hard tissue areas, enhances blood circulation, and stimulates reflex muscle contractions.

  • Wringing

The wringing sports massage technique is quite different from other methods as it involves lifting the tissues away from the bone and pushing it from side to side as the therapist’s hands move in the alternate direction. Because the massage therapists alternate between squeezing and releasing the tissues, this helps improve the blood circulation in that area while removing waste products. This sports massage method is beneficial as it stretches the muscles to release tension while improving the elasticity of the body tissue. Plus, just like other techniques, this one also aids in increasing nutrients and oxygen circulation in the body.

  • Trigger Pointing

The trigger pointing sports massage method is designed to relieve pain, neutralise trigger points, and alleviate muscle tightness in different parts of the body. Most trigger points are areas within a muscle that is painful to touch, and they develop when tension builds within the tissues. With trigger pointing, pressure is directly applied to these trigger points to increase blood circulation and reduce pain. Massage therapists use this method as a form of recovery, maintenance or post-event massage method to prevent injury after a sporting event or workout.

Some other sports massage techniques include:

  • Fascial release – used to release connective tissues around the muscle
  • Soft tissue release – involves stretching and locking the muscles and tissues
  • Positional release – used to relax hyperactive muscles in the body


Who Can Get a Sports Massage?

Sports massages are designed to help athletes but you don’t have to be a pro-athlete to enjoy all that a sports massage has to offer. Athletes and fitness buffs go through high rates of physical training and strain, which is why specialized sports massages are a good addition to their routine, but you don’t need the same specialized treatment as them if you are just moderately active. Sports massages help anyone that needs soft tissue mobilization or remediation but it doesn’t matter whether you are new to sports or an Olympic champion, this form is massage is good for everyone. So let’s take a look at a few of the groups of people that will benefit from getting a sports massage apart from professional athletes.

  • Active People

You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from a sports massage. As an active person, your body will be pushed physically constantly, so it is crucial that you manage the impact your workouts and activities are having on your body. With a sports massage, the risk of injury is reduced as this form is massage is dedicated towards recovery, rebuilding, and injury prevention.

  • Amateur Athletes

Amateur athletes put their bodies through a similar amount of strain as professional athletes and they sustain the same types of injuries. This is why sports massage is needed for amateur athletes as they need to give their bodies the time to recover after every activity. Besides, they would benefit greatly from this massage pre and post their different events, reducing the risk of injury.

  • People with Injuries

Sports massages are great for people with acute or chronic injuries as it helps you relax your muscles and tissues. If you have any form of sports or exercise-related injury, you’ll benefit intensely from this form of massage. Also, it also helps in post-surgery rehabilitation.


Benefits of Getting a Sports Massage

  • Increases Muscle flexibility

Sports massages help to reduce the muscle tightness and knots that make flexibility increasingly difficult. Flexibility is crucial for both athletes and non-athletes as it helps with increasing the blood circulation in the body.

  • Prevents Injury

Sports massages are beneficial for injury prevention as it helps in restoring muscle balance and alleviating muscle tension. This form of massage helps to reduce the muscle tension build-up that can lead to joint stress and injury.

  • Enhances Performance

Regularly scheduled sports massages can help improve your performance, whether you are an athlete or not. These regular massages treat different areas of the body that are regularly worked by multiple workouts or sporting activities, and they give attention to your muscles and joints that help enhance your performance. Plus, when the risk of injury is reduced, your overall performance will be optimum.

  • Reduced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

This form of massage is efficient in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness DOMS) that can happen during exercise or after a delayed period. This soreness occurs as a result of metabolic insufficiency that ensues when the blood supply cannot the body’s demand for oxygen, leading to the formation of lactic acid. Besides, pre and post-event sports massages help remove these wastes and toxins that cause pain and soreness to arise.

  • Improves recovery

Sports massages vary with the type of injury or sports activity you engage in. However, even with the differences, they all have one thing in common – the ability to help restore your body to its best position after an injury. Sports massages help to hasten the healing process and repair any damaged tissues in the body by increasing blood circulation.

  • Pain Relief

This form of massage helps in different ways to manage and reduce pain as it alleviates muscle tension and stiffness, which play a role in causing pain in the body. Sports massages also interfere with the body’s pain signals and release its natural pain killers in a bid to decrease the pain you feel.

  • Toxins Removal

Removal of toxins from the muscle is a major benefit of sports massages because these toxins if built up, can affect different tissues in the body. Also, this toxic build-up can reduce your athletic ability and day to day movements significantly, and with sports massages, all these problems are lessened.