The Benefits of Sport Massage
It seems like just about anywhere you go, you can get a massage– the gym, the airport, the mall, even at the workplace. And with good reason.
Research suggests that massage is effective in reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. And let's face it, it does feel good.
Even with the popularity of the therapy, there can still be some confusion over the different styles.
Swedish, deep tissue and trigger point are all common techniques that range from light, circular strokes to more forceful strokes that target the deeper layers of muscles. And then there's sport massage.
Intended to help athletes prevent or treat injuries, sport massage is a somewhat generic term that covers several different techniques. Timothy Schimick, a licensed massage therapist with UW Health's Sports Medicine Program explains that sports massage falls into two categories.
"In its purest form, the therapy is used pre-event and post-event either to help warm up the muscles and tissue or help the body recover from strenuous activity," he explains. "And the term is also used to include any type of massage that athletes would benefit from."
Schimick shares that massage therapies that focus on connective tissue and soft tissue help restore alignment to the body and aide in healing injures that can result from the repetitive stress and impact common to many athletic activities.
"Massage helps to realign the body and free adhered tissue that results from the increased workload on muscle groups, adds Schimick. "It helps muscles be more efficient and less prone to injury and prone performance."
Everyone Can Benefit
While many may assume sport massage is only appropriate for elite athletes, Schimick explains that anyone can benefit from the body work regardless of their fitness goals or intensity levels.
"Older athletes in particular can benefit because as we age, our tissue becomes stuck – or adhered - and loses its elasticity. When tissue becomes stuck, it can slow the recovery process, interfere with our body's optimal performance and lead to further complications and pain."
Each massage therapy session is tailored to the individual's needs. Depending on the athlete's needs, sport massage is offered pre- and post-event either as a warm up or to help the body recover.
"The optimum time to receive sport massage for recovery is within 48-72 hours after an event," Schimick says. "We don't want to do deep work immediately following an event as the body is still recovering and may have experienced muscle strains or 'micro-tears' in the system."
He adds that the 24- hour period after an event allows the body to restore some semblance of balance and reduce the inflammation that can be brought about by athletic activity. "Anywhere up to a week after the event is optimum as it allows the therapist to restore balance and alignment to the body before compensations can set in."
Sport massage uses soft tissue, or "connective tissue" work that includes techniques like Myofascial Release, Structural Integration and deep tissue bodywork. A therapist may use any combination of the techniques – also called "modalities" – depending on the goals of the clients.
Schimick comments that frequently, clients will come in to a session complaining of an injury or a pain that "came out of nowhere" or that developed from "sleeping funny."
"Almost all athletes – and people in general – have some form of repetitive stress or compensatory action taking place in their bodies due to their specific sport or career," he says. "All of us are subjected to the effects of gravity every day of our lives which means our structures are constantly working hard to maintain an upright posture."
Through our jobs or athletic activities, where our body is subjected to repetitive actions, we make small changes and compensations. These changes are not noticeable but over time, can compound because often the body compensates in a way that is not ideal. This can result in pain and ultimately inhibit the body's ability to function optimally.
"When we see injuries in the body, it's often a situation of 'the straw that broke the camel's back,'" he adds. "These injuries have been developing over months or years and aren't a sudden trauma."
Because these injuries have been developing over time, the treatment can require several sessions to help the body release old habits. Once the body is restored back to balance, continued sessions can help keep the body in alignment and pain-free.
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Date Published: 01/12/2016