Sports massage utilises specific massage techniques to manipulate muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia. Its main aims are to alleviate/reduce post activity fatigue, reduce swelling, release unwanted muscle tension, increase flexibility and as an injury prevention tool. It is commonly used before, during and after sporting events.
During activity, sporting or work-based, adhesions (which are tight bands of muscle tissue, otherwise known as “knots” in the muscle) build up in the soft tissues that are being used. These adhesions are caused by over worked muscles, muscle fatigue or chronic muscle tension. It is believed that adhesions may be a source of myofascial pain. Sports massage works by restoring muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia to its original state. This is achieved by alleviating unwanted muscle tension, improving circulation, relieving stress and increasing flexibility of the soft tissues. Sports massage also increases circulation and lymphatic drainage which facilitates removal of waste products (such as lactate, or lactic acid) that build up in the muscle after strenuous activity. This leads to reduced pain after exercise and improved recovery time.
Although sports massage is used to facilitate athletes of all levels to perform at their peak it is not used solely for the athletic population. It may also be used in the general population where the stresses and strains of life and work can leave our bodies in a sub-optimal condition. While at work, either being stuck behind the desk, in a car or standing behind the checkout for several hours, our muscles are being placed under constant static load. As a result of this some muscles will become short and tight/stiff and others will become long and weak. These muscle imbalances lead to a build-up of the pain provoking adhesions mentioned above. This may be the cause of your neck pain when spending too much time at the computer, low back pain when spending too long driving or knee pain when standing for too long etc. Sports massage can be a useful tool to alleviate these symptoms by ensuring that the tightness in these muscles is reduced and they are returned to a more flexible state.
Sports massage is not a painful technique. You may feel slight discomfort or a sensation of increased pressure around the area being worked on. However, your therapist will regularly ask you whether the depth of massage is at a comfortable level for you. Typically, after treatment your physiotherapist will prescribe you with an exercise program to maintain or improve the increase in flexibility that sports massage will have achieved.