While you may think that sports massages are for professional athletes only, it is not the case at all. It is surprisingly beneficial for any physically active person, helping relieve muscle tension, reduce fatigue, and even promote flexibility in the person.
Deep tissue massage therapy is crucial for recovery from any training program. Since exercises strain and wear out your muscles, a good massage is all you might need to jump right back onto your workout regimen the next day.
Whether you jog once a week or play tennis competitively, a sports massage can help prevent any injury from workouts. What's more, many professional therapists use some of the best deep tissue massagers to boost recovery in targeted areas.
If these massages have piqued your interest, keep reading to learn everything about sports massages in the following article.
What is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a form of deep tissue massage therapy that manipulates different soft tissues in your body systematically. It targets your muscles, tendons, ligament, and fascia, depending on the type of sports or physical activity you regularly engage in.
Deep tissue massage therapy is used to help repair and correct soft tissue damage from repetitive and strenuous activities. Moreover, you can get a sports massage before, after, and even during your performance to prevent injury and enhance training.
Besides athletes, sports massage is also used in rehabilitation centers to speed up patients' recovery time. By targeting specific muscle groups, sports massage can improve blood flow and deliver increased nutrients and oxygen for recovery.
It is also important to mention that sports massage includes a long list of techniques to help athletes reach their peak performance and reduce the risk of injuries. Some of these are listed below.
- Swedish style massage
- Kneading or petrissage
- Rhythmic striking
Origin of Sports Massage
Moving on to the origin, sports therapy dates back to more than 3000 years ago to countries like Greece, India, and China.
Such massages became popular in the Western world when Per Henrik Ling developed Swedish massage in the early 1800s. This massage was mainly aimed at helping gymnasts and fencers.
However, it was in the mid-1950s when the term, sports massage, was created by Jack Meagher. He grouped various soft tissue massage techniques under sports massage and even created his own company to facilitate these massages to athletes and sports people.
Nowadays, many different kinds of deep tissue massage therapies are found in America, Canada, Australia, and the UK to ensure faster recovery, better performance, and improvement in overall health.
What is Sports Therapy?
While sports massage and sports therapy are sometimes used interchangeably, there are a few technical differences between them both. Among the two, sports therapy includes a higher training experience with many more skills and extensive knowledge.
Moreover, sports therapy includes many different types of complex techniques that focus on various aspects of the body. While some therapists may only pursue deep tissue massage therapy, others may specialize in rehabilitation and emergency care.
The following are some of the areas that are included in the broad term of sports therapy.
- Sports massage
- Advanced Manual Therapy Skills
- Ethics and Professionalism
- Anatomy and physiology
- Gai analysis
- Injury assessment and treatment
- Rehabilitation from the injury
- Sports Taping
- First Aid and trauma care
- Sports nutrition
- Strength and conditioning
All these techniques and field areas allow a sports massage therapist to evolve the standard everyday skills of an athlete to highly skilled performance.
What Happens During a Sports Massage?
Your sports massage therapist will take a detailed history of your first appointment. This will include inquiring about your current health, past medical history, allergies, lifestyle, physical activities, and your problem area.
Next, the masseuse will focus on the target or sore areas instead of working on your whole body. For example, if you suffered from a hamstring injury during sports, they will use deep tissue massage techniques on that area only.
Typically, therapists combine basic massages and deep tissue compression to improve blood lymph circulation through your injured muscles. They may even use the best deep tissue massager gun or trigger point massage to break down stiffness, knots, and adhesions in the affected area.
Besides this, your therapist will generally tailor your massage according to your needs. All such sports massages will help speed up your recovery, increase your range of motion, and reduce fatigue.
What are the Benefits of Sports Massage?
Sports massages are well-known for their vast number of benefits in aiding recovery from different sports and physical activities. Whether you have a sprain from wearing out your muscles or you want to boost your performance, sports massages can help you in all sorts of fields.
Some of these benefits are:
- Increase your range of motion for better performance
- Enhance flexibility
- Reduce muscle aches, tension, cramps, and discomfort
- Decrease stiffness and soreness of muscles and joints
- Relieve muscular spasms
- Shorten recovery time after a sports injury
Sports massage can even improve sleep quality, reduce your physiological stress levels, and enhance your overall well-being.
Now the question arises, how does sports massage manage to provide so many benefits? How does it work?
Well, sports massages increase blood circulation through the target areas. As a result, it helps to remove toxins and chemical irritants from the muscles. Furthermore, higher blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to your injured areas. This helps to boost repair and reduce muscle pain.
There is also much research that supports the benefits of sports massage. For instance, one such meta-analysis reports decreased fatigue and faster recovery in the subjects. In addition to this, people also showed reduced anxiety symptoms, improved sleep, and better mood.
If all this was not enough, massage therapy with compression techniques influences nerve reflexes, leading to prolonged muscle relaxation. Hence, it helps to relieve pain, stiffness, and tension knots from the target areas.
Are There Any Side-Effects of Sports Therapy?
Sports therapy is not linked to any significant side effects in most of the subjects. However, a small percentage may experience mild effects like soreness for one to two days after their massage.
Besides this, there is a chance that you might show an allergic reaction to the oil used by the professional masseuse. Therefore, it is better to inform your therapist about any known allergy before your massage.
When Should You Get a Sports Massage?
Now that we know how beneficial sports massages are, when is the right time to get one? How can you gain maximum benefits and reach peak performance using deep massage therapies?
Ideally, the timing for sports massage varies from person to person. If you are an athlete preparing for some big sports event or a marathon, it is best to get a mild sports massage at least three to four days before the event.
However, you can even use deep tissue massage guns, like ExoGun, for a light massage on the morning of your performance. It helps relax your muscles, reduce tension, and even keep your mind fresh for the competition.
Besides this, you can even opt for a very deep and precise massage at least four days before the event. Such a massage will flush out all your toxins, treat soreness, and relieve tight muscles from prior workout regimens.
Similarly, you can get a sports massage after your training or competition too. Typically, therapists recommend getting a massage after two to three days if you do not have a muscle injury. When your muscles are relaxed and not tired, a deep tissue sports massage can speed up your healing and repair any muscle injury.
Moreover, some athletes and sportspeople prefer to get sports massages right after their training for the most impact. Here, you have to make sure to wait until your heart rate goes back to normal and you are hydrated.
How Often Can You Get a Sports Massage?
We know about the right timing for getting a sports massage, but how often can you even get one in the first place? Is it fine to get a sports massage every day? Or should I opt for one only once a month?
Typically, the frequency of a sports massage varies. It is highly dependent on factors like your training regime, its intensity, and the training volume. Besides this, it also matters whether you have an acute injury or chronic pain.
In some cases, athletes show a lot of improvements with just weekly massages. On the other hand, others only get one when they have muscle aches, some injury, or soreness from intense workouts.
However, if your training regime is quite harsh and strict, regular sports massage can have many benefits on your health. Not only will it strengthen your muscles and reduce soreness, but you will also see an improvement in your flexibility and motion.
If you cannot take frequent sports massages, even getting an appointment once a month should positively affect your health.
When Shouldn't I Get A Sports Massage?
It is essential to understand that you cannot take a sports massage anytime you want. This is especially true for athletes suffering from an acute injury, where sports massage is contraindicated.
Generally, you need to wait for at least 72 hours after the onset of the acute injury to bring the inflammation in the muscle down. When the pain and swelling in the affected area have reduced substantially, only then should you opt for a massage.
Some other conditions where sports massage is contraindicated are listed in the following section.
- Severe heart disease
- Vascular diseases
- Contagious skin disorders
- Recent surgery
- Diabetes with a vascular condition
- Infectious diseases
Since there is a long list of health conditions where you cannot get a sports massage, it is much better to give a detailed history to your therapist. Inform them about any medical conditions and medications in your next appointment.
Who Can Get a Sports Massage?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to getting a sports massage. Contrary to what the name of the massage suggests, almost anyone can use sports massage to reap its benefits.
When it comes to sportsmen and athletes, the massage helps to reduce and prevent muscle injury from strenuous and vigorous training programs. Similarly, it is also helpful for people who participate in recreational exercises or frequent hiking and jogging. Sports therapy can relieve muscle soreness and stiffness in no time at all.
Besides this, deep tissue sports massages can help treat muscle injuries, aches, restricted range of motion, and chronic pain from underlying medical conditions. Often, many physiotherapists and rehabilitation centers use these techniques to promote faster recovery in their patients too.
Hence, whether you have a sports injury or a cramp from tripping, sports massage can help heal your injuries effectively.
Where to Get Sports Massage From?
Finding the right, experienced sports massage is not an easy feat. It is especially true for professional athletes who need trained experts and therapists to compete at national and international levels.
If you are confused about finding a credible sports massage therapist, check the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork in your area. Besides this, you can go through the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) to find a certified therapist too.
According to the AMTA, you should ask the sports massage therapist the following questions.
- Do you have a license or registration for a massage therapist in the states?
- What certifications do you have? Are you a part of the American Massage Therapy Association?
- Which massages can you perform? What are your specialties?
- Can you address my overall health concerns?
Sports massage has become an integral part of many sports worldwide, where athletes use deep tissue massage techniques to relieve soreness, stiffness, muscle aches and improve their performance.
With a long list of benefits, sports massage has even become popular among non-athletics. Nowadays, it is even used in rehabilitation centers and by people with chronic medical conditions to promote a faster recovery.
Notably, always make sure to get your message from a credible sports massage therapist to ensure the best experience.