Athletes are constantly looking for ways to train harder, improve performance and recover quickly. In the last several decades, levels of athletic performance have risen dramatically.
There have been major advances in training techniques, equipment and the nutritional needs of the athlete. Along with these advances, there has been growing awareness of the benefits of massage on athletic performance and sports massage has become an important part of many individual’s athletic training and recovery regime. Sports massage has many proven benefits to the athlete of any level, from the elite to the weekend warrior.
How Does Massage Affect Performance?
Regular massage treatments can:
-Reduce chances of injury by reducing restrictions in soft tissue and muscle spasm
-Improve range of motion and flexibility, improving power and performance
-Provide shorter recovery time between workouts
-Improve nutrient and blood supply to tissues by increasing circulation
-Decrease performance anxiety and improve mental focus
-Help to prevent the development of chronic injuries.
Sports Massage Techniques
Sports massage therapy often uses a variety of Swedish and Myofascial release techniques to achieve the aims of the treatment:
Deep Tissue Massage- Uses a variety of Swedish techniques to relieve severe tension in the muscle, connective tissue or fascia. This type of massage focuses on the tissues that lie underneath the more superficial tissues of the body.
Trigger Point Therapy- Involves specific pressure into trigger/tender points within the muscle. This technique is used to reduce muscle spasm, and referred pain patterns that characterize the point. If these points are left untreated, they can cause restriction and pain upon movement.
Friction Therapy- Deep, specific cross fiber massage technique that are used to break down adhesions and scar tissue.
Compression/Petrissage- General Swedish techniques used to warm up or flush out soft tissue by increasing the blood flow to the tissue. This technique is generally used pre and post athletic event or as a warm up for deeper more specific work.
Myofascial Release- A type of therapy that focuses on stretching and reducing bonds between the fascia of the body, skin and the muscles to improve range of motion and decrease pain.
How to Keep Yourself in Top Physical Form
Keeping yourself in peak condition for all your athletic endeavors, involves a regime that’s focused on prevention and maintenance.
A regular maintenance program will involve your therapist treating the specific muscle groups and connective tissue that are affected by the activity. The focus of the maintenance program is to improve/maintain range of motion and flexibility in the connective tissue. The goals of the treatments are to help the individual reach top athletic performance through injury-free training.
In the event that an injury does occur, rehabilitation massage is very effective at reducing discomfort and speeding the healing process. The goal is to not interrupt the training or practice schedule, or to keep the interruption as small as possible. Sports massage therapy can aid in recovery from various injuries such as acute or chronic strains and sprains, and tendonitis’. It can enable the athlete to be free of myofascial trigger points and adhesions; reduce/eliminate chronic pain/injuries; and can allow the athlete to use their energy in the most effective way. Sports massage can help flush away lactic acid build up after the ‘burn’ of a workout, as well as assist in increasing blood flow following the microtearing and constriction of tight muscles.
Many athletes use pre and post event massage treatments, which have very distinct purposes.
Pre-event massage is used as a warm up before taking part in the athletic event. It’s used to increase circulation to the muscles and connective tissue and to reduce muscle tension before competing.
Post-event massage is used to reduce muscle spasm and metabolite build up. Various techniques are used to enhance the body’s natural recovery processes and to return the individual back to training form and reduce the chance of injury.
Whatever your level of athletic ability, massage therapy is an effective tool for improving athletic performance, mental focus, improve flexibility and circulation and aids in preventing the development of chronic injuries.
Adapted from: Massage Therapy For an Athletic Edge.
American Massage Therapy Association