Massage is a common and popular treatment modality for athletes, coaches and therapists working with athletes. It is however, not limited to high end athletes or any particular age group, gender or demographic. Sports massage is a hard muscular massage that is utilised to loosen and relax tight muscles from use. Whether it is an Olympic grade athlete or someone who has gone for a long walk.
The main difference between sports massage and soft tissue management is the purpose behind the massage. Where sports massage is aimed at releasing and relaxing all muscles that are tight and sore from use, soft tissue management is the massage that is directed at correcting a particular injury or strain and can be considerably more painful or direct to particular symptoms. Sports massage aims to relax muscles and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or used as a pain relief from DOMS. Another use is to help promote mobility and correct movement prior to training or competition or “performance” to help improve performance and promote prevention for injuries.
Results from studies (Brummit, J. 2008) show that there is evidence supporting the benefits of sports massage both physiologically and psychologically, however, there is some speculation on whether it truly depends on the individual. Leivadi, Hernandez-Reif and Field (1999) promote the use of sports massage for elite dancers as it helped maintain flexibility, mobility and strength at end range whilst preventing tightening of musculature and a significant reduction in muscle tears with long term massage protocols. These results imply that sports massage carried over an extended period of time alongside continued training and competition promotes healthy muscle development in appropriate positions and prevention of injury over a sustained period.
Sports massage is a valuable tool that can be used to compliment any form of activity that is sustained on a regular basis. While most physical therapists complete these services, Chiropractors, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapists can combine diagnostic skills alongside massage techniques to help improve the evidence behind sports massage as well as use a variety of other treatment techniques to help. If you are training to compete in a sporting event, or simply want to get fit, sports massage can help you get there quicker and in less pain.
Brummit, J. (2008). The Role of Massage in Sports Performance and Rehabilitation: Current Evidence and Future Direction. North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 3(1), pp 7 – 21.
Leivadi S, Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, et al. Massage therapy and relaxation effects on university dance students. J Dance Med Sci. 1999;3:108–112