The science behind sport massage

Athletes have been turning to post-exercise massage to facilitate recovery for many years.  Sports massage therapy is an effective tool to manage pain, treat sports injury and speed recovery.

Sports massage is the physical manipulation of the body tissues with rhythmical pressure and movement to promote health and wellbeing.  These include:

  • Pre-exercise mental preparation (for example, mental alertness, focus, concentration and decision making)
  • Post-exercise recovery (for example, sore muscles, injuries, heart rate and breathing, and de-stressing)
  • Injury prevention (for example, warm-ups and stretching)
  • Injury rehabilitation (for example, pain management and anxiety management)

Sports massage – what is it?

Sports massage as pre-and-post-exercise therapy has been used for many years with scientific research dating back to the early 1970s.  It is now a staple strategy in many high-performance sports including football, cricket, soccer, athletics, swimming, tennis, basketball, netball, baseball and many more. 

Classical massage or Swedish massage is the most common form of sports massage treatment used in a sporting setting.  The techniques used include: 

  • Effleurage (sliding/gliding movements)
  • Petrissage (tissue kneading or pressing)
  • Tapotement (rapid striking)
  • Friction (pressure application)
  • Vibration (Tremulous shaking movements)

Other forms of therapy like underwater jet-massage, acupressure, and deep tissue massage are also used to support sports massage.  

The benefits of pre-sport massage therapy

A pre-sport massage increases blood flow to vital muscles.  This helps muscles to be more flexible and less prone to injury.  Sport is a competitive, high-pressured environment and a highly-strung athlete is less likely to achieve optimum performance.  Sports massage therapy before the sport is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety and relax the mind.  A relaxed athlete is mentally prepared for the game, can focus better and perform well.

How post-sport massage aids sport recovery

Sports massage is effective in treating a specific injury sustained during sport.  Sports massage therapists are trained in anatomy and physiology and will know how to treat sport specific injuries like hamstring strain, tennis elbow, groin injury, knee injury (ACL), shin splint and others.  Sports massage employs a combination of techniques including soft tissue massage, deep tissue massage and full body massage to treat sport injuries.

Sports massage can enhance sports injury and recovery by:

  • Relieving muscle tension
  • Reducing muscle spasm
  • Reducing pain
  • Increasing flexibility and range of movement
  • Increasing blood circulation
  • Aiding the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to repair and restore cells
  • Regulating heartbeat and breathing
  • Enhancing removal of substances (for example blood lactate and creatine kinase)

Sports massage is a comprehensive mechanism that can promote physiological, biomedical, neurological, psychological and immunological recovery.  The chart below explains how each recovery is achieved:

Who needs a sports massage?

Sports massage treatment is not meant for  just professional sports.  It is a massage therapy that can benefit anyone who participates in sport or exercise.   Sports massage is beneficial to you:

  • If you take part in indoor or outdoor sports (for example, netball, cricket, soccer, tennis, swimming, golf, running, athletics and so forth)
  • If you go to a gym or fitness centre
  • If you take yoga or dance classes
  • If you participate in recreational exercises (for example, jogging, running, walking, bushwalking, cycling, golfing and others)
  • If you participate in extreme sports (mountain climbing, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and others)

How frequently should you have a sports massage?

If you have an injury, the physiotherapist may recommend a sports massage that lasts 45 minutes to an hour.  Depending on your injury you may have to go for a massage once, twice or three times a week. 

If you have just completed a long and exhausting event like a big hike up a mountain, a difficult bike trail or a hard swim, go for a 90-minute sports massage to give your body enough time to completely recover and restore energy levels. 

If you use sports massage regularly as a therapy to minimise the risk of sports injuries and to prepare yourself for sport, then consider a massage that is at least 1 hour long. 

Do you know the 4 traits that make great athletes have nothing to do with sport?

When it comes to sports performance, practice makes perfect.  But is that the case really?  While skill, strength, and stamina are vital to athletic achievement, what set winners apart from others is a set of values that is not within the sporting acumen.  That’s according to Don Yaegar – New York Times Bestseller author and award-winning sports journalist. 

Here are the five behaviours of successful athletes:

  • Being humble – A winning athlete stays humble no matter how successful.  Being humble means being open to honest assessment and self-improvement
  • Value feedback – Successful athletes have self-awareness.  They value feedback as an opportunity to improve not as a personal attack.
  • Start every day at zero – A successful sportsperson considers every day as a new day and complete their training from scratch.  The more you train, the better you become.
  • Be earnest to learn – A successful athlete believes in continuous learning and improvement.  They do not become complacent or arrogant about their success. 

If you participate in sports or exercise, sports massage therapy can help you prepare for the game and recover after the game.  It can also be used to minimise sport injury. 

Prepare, recover and restore with a professional sports massage at Retreat Wellness Sports Massage Spa.  Book your sports massage here.

Beyond a fancy spa and a massage therapy centre, Retreat Wellness is a one-of-a-kind experience.  We practise a wholesome all-encompassing theme that explores the elements of healing and well-being.  We offer an extensive menu of therapeutic massages to help you feel like your best self in no time.
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