Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue to benefit a person engaged in regular physical activity. Soft tissue is connective tissue that has not hardened into bone and cartilage; it includes skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (a form of connective tissue that lines and ensheathes the other soft tissues). Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems and imbalances in soft tissue that are caused from repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma. The application of sports massage, prior to and after exercise, may enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.
Massage is recorded as one of the earliest forms of physical therapy and was used over 3000 years ago in China, India and Greece. Its popular use in the Western world is largely due to the work of Per Henrik Ling (1776 – 1839), who developed the form of massage now known as Swedish massage. Ling developed his own style of massage and exercise to help fencers and gymnasts, gaining international recognition in the process. Many of his ideas have formed the foundations of modern sports massage. Today, there are many forms of massage available to assist us in maintaining our health and well-being. Sports massage has been accepted in America, Canada and Australia for many years now, while in the UK, the practice only became known and more widely used in the 1990s.
Sports massages are not limited to athletes. Sports massage is an appropriate massage treatment for anyone who is in need of a remedial or soft tissue mobilisation. The remedial effects of sports massage are beneficial post-surgery, alongside physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropractic, or as a health benefit within an office environment.
Within a sporting context, people who participate in sport can use a sports massage as a regular part of their training programme. Sports massage is also effective as a performance enhancement. Although the name implies a sporting clientele, it is a massage treatment appropriate to all.
Receiving a sports massage helps on many occasions. A sports massage helps reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), help as part of a training programme, post event, pre event and relieving tight muscles.
A sports massage helps to reduce DOMS. DOMS can be caused by a number of factors. DOMS can be the result of minor muscle or connective tissue damage, local muscle spasm that reduces blood flow or a build-up of waste products from energy production. A sports massage helps treat DOMS by reducing muscles spasm, flushing out waste products and increasing blood flow to an area. Increased blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to an area to assist the repair of any damaged tissues.
Sports massages is an effective tool to integrate into a training programme. A sports massage helps the body recover from the stresses of exercise and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. A sports massage helps improve blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation and general relaxation. Sports massages also help to flush out waste products and better cell nutrition. The effects of sports massage adds up to the relief of soreness, stiffness, increased flexibility and less chance for future injury.
Sports massage helps after a sporting event such as a 10k run, a football match or a cycle race. Sports massage also helps after workouts or gym classes. Sports massage is a beneficial treatment to help muscles recover, prevent injuries and prepare the body for future exercise. A sports massage will help reduce muscle spasms and metabolic build-up of waste products that occur during exercise.
A sports massage is also used to help pre event. Pre event massage can be given directly before exercise or in the weeks leading up to an event. A sports massage used before exercise can help performance and decrease the chance of injury. A sports massage is used as part of a warm up for the muscles prior to exercise. A sports massage focuses on enhancing circulation, increasing tissue elasticity and reducing muscle tension.
Sports massage is also used to help relieve tight muscles. Muscle tightness can limit flexibility, increase pain and cause future injuries. Sports massage helps release muscle tightness. A sports massage helps increase blood flow through tight muscles, break down inflexible tissues and stretch out muscle fibers. Using a sports massage regularly to relieve tight muscles can help reduce the chance of injury and maximize performance.