Have you ever gone on a hike or taken a swim? Played a friendly game of tennis or basketball with a friend? Spent a weekend doing lawn work or house work and felt your muscles screaming for mercy at the end of it all? If you said “yes” to any of these questions, or could imagine yourself in any of those situations, then congratulations, my friend, you qualify for sports massage therapy.
Sports massage therapy is a subset of massage therapy that is specifically tailored to work on a physically active body. Sports massage therapists use techniques that increase flexibility and range of motion, reduce chances of injury during athletic performance, and treat injuries after activity. All of these factors combined help the body attain its peak level of performance.
Because sports massage therapy is intended to help a person achieve physical fitness, it is perfect for professional and amateur athletes alike. So whether you’re getting ready for your next Olympic medal or getting ready to take a quick jog around the block, here are the 4 biggest reasons you need sports massage therapy in your life:
1. Sports massage therapy helps you get your head (and body) in the game! Unlike some other forms of massage, sports massage therapy is meant to invigorate the recipient, rather than relax them. Muscles are nerve endings are stimulated to help keep the massage recipient alert, focused, and responsive. Tapotement movements (mostly quick tapping) loosen up the muscles), and quick frictions help to warm the area. Guided stretching also helps loosen the muscle fibers.
Massage therapists are familiar with the body motions that accompany different types of sports and tailor sports massage therapies to individual athletes. For example, for a cyclist, the massage therapist would mainly focus on stretching out the legs, hips, and lower back. For a swimmer, the therapist would be working hardest on the shoulders and upper back. Every athlete has different needs that a massage therapist knows how to attend to.
2. It really gets your blood flowing. In sports massage, therapists target specific muscle groups to loosen the fibers and fascia. Relaxing the muscle fibers and fascia allows blood to flow through these areas more freely, which in turn allows more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles. Increased blood flow in the muscles allows the muscles to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time.
3. Sports massage therapy can help prevent injury – even if you’re a little bit clumsy! Keeping your muscle fibers and fascia loose and relax makes them less prone to minor tears and strains. Though stretching is one way to loosen up your muscles, it a stretch can’t effectively reach every muscle group! Plus, if a person stretches incorrectly, any positive benefits associated with stretching can be immediately negated. Regularly incorporating sports massage therapy into a training regimen helps keep your muscles loose and flexible, and can target any areas of tightness or restriction that regular stretching cannot.
4. Post-game massage therapy helps your body readjust. The immediate post-workout pain that people often feel in their most-worked areas comes from inflammation and minor tears in the muscle fibers, fascia, and nociceptors. Bodywork helps reduce this inflammation by bringing more blood into the area, and can help ease the pain of the minor tears.
DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, can be greatly reduced by effective bodywork. Usually, DOMS occurs within 24-72 hours after a particularly grueling workout, specifically one that focused on new areas. Research has shown that athletes who see a sports massage therapist after a workout can reduce DOMS by 25% – 50%.
So there you have it. Sports massage therapy can help you BEFORE a game, DURING a game, and AFTER a game. It gets you energized, prepares your muscles, and even helps you recover from any physical stress. It keeps you flexible, oxygenates your muscles, and can reduce inflammation in sore spots. If you’ve ever done any form of physical activity in your lifetime — and don’t try to tell me you haven’t — you need to try sports massage therapy today!