Ever hear the term “sports massage” and wonder what makes it so special compared to “Swedish massage”? Maybe, you have heard of its existence, but you figure it’s reserved solely for professional athletes. Well my goal here is to give you a clearer picture of what it entails, and show you how it’s something even the “weekend warrior” can benefit from.
Sports massage is a specialized field of massage that utilizes many techniques that have proven to be effective for a specific athlete base. In other words a runner’s session may look completely different from a football player’s session. Also, this may vary depending on the position played by the athlete. Having a core understanding of how the athlete uses their body is crucial to the effectiveness of the therapist. Because of this most sport massage specialists (SMS) will focus only on a few sports in order to fully understand body mechanics and common injury sites. This is a benefit Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness has in the fact that we have a team of therapists who focus on a variety of sports and have the capability to work with anyone.
Sports massage is labeled as “maintenance”,” inter-event”, “post-event”, and “injury recovery”.
Most maintenance sessions include a variety of techniques including but not limited to Swedish massage, Myofascial release, neuromuscular techniques, and lots of stretching. Because it is a highly active technique usually the client is wearing shorts and a sports bra or tank top to eliminate draping concerns. SMS will often utilize assessment techniques to find areas of weakness or tightness in the body, or may watch the athlete perform their activity to look for postural inefficiencies. From there the athlete and SMS can set goals together to work towards increasing flexibility, correct posture, reduce the chances of injury, along with reduction in general stress and muscle soreness from overtraining. Sports massage is often described as being a more invigorating session and leaves the client feeling as if they have just had a workout. Sessions typically last in the 30-90min range and are best utilized on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule depending on the level of training and schedule. Monthly massage is more than appropriate for the “occasional” athlete, frequent exerciser, or for anyone wanting to improve posture and effectiveness at work.
Inter- and post-event massage is done on-site at competitions. Studies have shown that massage is beneficial when added onto an effective recovery exercise routine, especially when the athletes performances are more than 45 minutes apart. Post-event massage has also shown, when used in conjunction with regular maintenance massage, it can significantly reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Be cautious of therapists who tout pre-event massage, studies have shown that this may put the body into a relaxed state which is counter-productive to increasing performance, though the benefit of reduced anxiety may have a role to play in improved focus.
Injury recovery massage is done as a progressive treatment, beginning by reducing edema, then working to release “splinted” muscles, and help in the laying of healthy scar tissue. This reduces the chance to reinjure and may shorten recovery time. This process isn’t limited to sports injuries and can be very beneficial for the “average” individual that twisted an ankle or slipped and fell.
If you have an desire to introduce Sports massage into your training regimen, Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness offers first time massage consults. We will conduct a full body postural assessment to find areas that may need focus with massage or strengthening. Then, with the remaining time, we will perform a few focused techniques to give you an internal sense of how this work feels. If you would like to offer sports massage as a benefit to your sports team or client base, I can personally come to your organization and give a more detailed presentation to discuss what Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness has to offer. Please call 269-459-6469 or send an email to email@example.com.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT