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6 Benefits Of A Sports Massage

Sports massage is a manual therapy technique designed to mobilise and manipulate the body’s soft tissue structures. Sports massage differs from regular ‘relaxation’ massage in that more pressure is applied which results in more mobilisation of the intended tissues.

The benefits of sports massage are not limited to athletes or those who carry out physical activity on a regular basis. Sports massage can be beneficial to a wide range of people ranging from professional athletes, those with physically demanding jobs and also those with desk based jobs. The following are the benefits of sports massage:

1) Feelings of relaxation:

Throughout a sports massage the increase in blood flow generates heat through the muscles, enabling them to relax, which can reduce feelings of tension.

2) Increased blood flow:

The circulation of blood is enhanced to the muscle area through massage, in a similar way to exercise. The main difference is that sports massage causes your blood vessels to widen and become closer to the skin surface, increasing the ability of nutrients to flow through to the muscles. This is important for mobility of the muscles which in turn enables you to move more freely.

3) Reduction in anxiety:

Chemical hormones are induced and released during massage, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Dopamine (known as the “feel good hormone”), Serotonin (which helps to regulate mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory) and Oxytocin (known as the “cuddle/love hormone”) are all released during the massage process. In addition, the hormones Epinephrine, Norepinephrine and Cortisol, which are related to stress and immune/digestive disruption, are all regulated during the massage process.

4) Increase in flexibility:

During sports massage the muscle tissue is expanded and stretched in various ways, allowing for stored pressure and tension to be released thus aiding flexibility. Having increased flexibility aids mobility, muscle coordination and helps reduce the risk of injury.

5) Prevention or relief of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS):

DOMS is a result of muscles working hard, causing microscopic damage to the muscle fibres and resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness. Sports massage aids blood flow to the muscles supporting recovery of the tissues and reducing the likelihood of DOMS occurring.

6) Scar tissue break down:

Previous injuries may result in the creation of scar tissue which can affect muscles and tendons. An increase in scar tissue can then lead to pain, a higher risk of injury and a reduction in performance. Sports massage has the ability to break down this scar tissue thus reducing the likeliness of pain and re-injury.

All of the above benefits also contribute to the reduction of pain thus increasing quality of life regardless of your end goal.

In the sporting population there are four types of sports massage. The benefits of sports massage, as stated above, remain the same, but each type of massage will differ in the amount of pressure applied by the therapist. This will help you get the most out of your massage.

The four types are:

Pre-event: Having a sports massage prior to an event can aid performance and reduce the risk of injury as it focuses on increasing blood flow and tissue elasticity, which in turn reduces tension within the tissues.
If you have an important race or competition coming up it is best to book in 4-7 days prior to event as this will allow the body to recover from any soreness that may have accumulated as a result of the massage. This is not to say you will not benefit further from a massage 1-3 days prior to the event as the therapist will apply the massage pressure accordingly.

Post-event: A post event sports massage should be performed up to 3 days following the event (the sooner the better). You should advise the therapist if you have recently completed a race or competition so that they can apply the appropriate level of pressure in the massage to maximise the body’s ability to normalise the affected tissues. It is important to note that a sports massage does not substitute for the need of an effective cool down.

Inter-event: Not often performed in clinics as these massages tend to be given during competitions. This type of sports massage is only usually a few minutes long and is a lot lighter then pre-event, post-event and rehabilitative massage. This type of massage is useful for relieving muscle pains.

Rehabilitative: This type of sports massage is aimed at relieving pain during injury and aiding the body to recover. The therapist will discuss your injury with you before commencing the massage so that they can apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the right places. It is important to understand that sports massage is not the answer to injury but can help in reducing the pain. In order to aid recovery further and prevent the risk of re-injury it is best practice to undergo a full rehabilitation plan as directed by a physiotherapist/sports therapist.

Following a sports massage it is common to feel a little sore or tired. It is recommended that you have time to relax and take a shower/bath after your sports massage. It is also worth noting that massage can dehydrate the body but this is easily combated by drinking plenty of water before and after the massage.

Sports massage is not recommended if you:
Have a fever, infection or illness
Have any open wounds, acute burns or contusions around the area you wish to be treated
Have any serious mental condition or illness

Although not contraindicated, you must let your therapist know if you are, or think you might be, pregnant so the therapist can adjust your massage accordingly.

If you are unsure about which type of sports massage is suitable for you, please call and book in for a face to face consultation where one of our therapists will happily discuss your needs with you.

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