What is a Sports Massage?

Repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma can cause imbalances and problems in soft tissue, sports massage can assist in correcting and easing these issues. Receiving sports massage prior to and after exercise can help to enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.

Sports massage uses many of the same techniques as Swedish massage, effleurage, petrissage, frictions, stretching and tapotement but with much greater intensity. It involves the manipulation of soft tissue, for those who engage in regular exercise. Soft tissue includes, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (a connective tissue that lines and covers the other soft tissues). 

The benefits of sports massage can include:

  • Improved tissue elasticity. Training can result in hard muscles that lose their elasticity, massage can help reverse this by stretching, softening and elongating the muscle tissue.
  • Increased tissue permeability. Deep massage encourages the muscle tissue membrane to open allowing fluids and nutrients to pass through, therefore enabling the movement of waste products like lactic acid out of the muscle. It also allows oxygen and nutrients to be taken in which in turn will aid muscle recovery.
  • Break down scar tissue. Scar tissue from previous injuries or trauma can have an effect on muscles, tendons and ligaments leading to tissues that may continue to be prone to injury and pain.
  • Pain reduction. Massage can reduce pain and tension in tissues by aiding the release of endorphins in the body.
  • Relaxation.  Muscles relax through heat generated circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors which sense touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth are stimulated causing a reflex relaxation.
  • Psychological benefits. Prior to a sporting event, massage can give a feeling of relaxation, reduce anxiety levels and give the athlete a feeling of invigoration.

Sports massage can be invaluable when treating old or recurring injuries, particularly when partnered with exercise to help strengthen and/or tone soft tissue. By stretching connective tissue, massage improves the circulation to help prevent and assist the breakdown of scar tissue and adhesions and the movement of fluids to assist tissue repair.  Management of such injuries will allow the continuation of activity whilst aiding the healing process. Massage has a relaxing effect on the muscles and a sedative effect on the nervous system which can help to prevent over-training syndrome which can have a limiting effect on muscle building.

Sports massage is now widely recognised in the training industry as an element in an overall regime of training and competition and which can be used prior to, during or post competition activity.

Sports massage is not only beneficial to those involved in professional sport but anyone who through their work or leisure activity (eg. running, cycling or water sports) or with an existing or long term injury, leads a physical lifestyle.

Jo, Lily & Megan are all Sports Massage Therapists, click here for more about them and their training