one of the earliest forms of physical therapy with its use dating back
to more than 3000 years ago. Now in modern times with scientific
discovery and technological development, improvements in this skill
have occurred making sports massage much more accurate at treating
injury and more beneficial to athletes as a whole.
What massage aims to achieve
In each particular type of massage the therapist and client have a
particular aim in mind. With the demands of sport ever increasing and
the actual intensity of athletic performance so high, sports massage is
a valuable tool, integral to any training program.
Sports massage, like many other types, needs a thorough understanding
of anatomy, physiology, muscular and skeletal systems. This is
paramount in sports massage as dealing with top class athletes, their
body is their main concern and skill is needed at all times. Regular
massage will prevent the wear and tear of intensive training getting
too much, letting the athlete ease sore muscles, recover from aches and
pains as well as targeting muscle imbalances and specific areas of
The benefits of sports massage
When applied skillfully massage is the best way of releasing muscle
tension. It can restore balance to the musculo-skeletal system and if
received regularly prevents injuries which can keep athletes out of
action for months, and in severe cases, years.
Massage seeks to relieve the tension which builds up in joints,
ligaments, tendons and muscles.
Muscle imbalances are also treated through sports massage. These often
develop and go undiagnosed until they creep up causing serious pain and
often injury. These often occur through incorrect posture, poor form or
from intensive activity. A skilled therapist will be able to detect
this quickly before the problem becomes too severe and thus save an
athlete from damaging time off through injury.
There are many types of massage technique but in sports massage they
are mainly divided into three categories which are effleurage,
petrissage and frictions.
Almost all massage is carried out with the pressure being directed
towards the heart as this aids blood flow back to the heart and with it
the removal of toxins and lactic acid. It also increases venous and
lymphatic flow, ensuring no pressure of blood is pushed against closed
valves which can cause damage to blood vessels. The only exception to
this rule is when massage is used in shorter strokes to stretch muscle
fibers which can occur away or towards the heart. As the strokes are
short there is no risk of built up pressure.
Effleurage mainly consists of a variety of stroking movement carried
out using the whole palm, hand and fingers. The pressure is varied
according to purpose and the stage of the massage, often light at first
then slowly increasing. Effleurage is always used at the start of a
massage before any other techniques.
The basic movement is a stroke with firm pressure towards the heart
using the palm for a wide surface area. On the return stroke the
therapist maintains contact but it is light and avoids the same path as
the main stroke just made. The hands are relaxed and mould to the shape
of the body.
Effleurage has many purposes that it can focus on such as:
Introducing the client to touch and the massage as a whole putting the
client into a relaxed state increasing blood flow: Warming the tissues,
stimulating peripheral nerves, relaxing the muscles, palpitating
Effleurage is always carried out in a rhythmical and relaxed manner,
light at first and slowly building pressure for deeper penetration. It
shouldn't be rushed as this phase is where abnormalities and areas of
stiffness are often discovered to which the therapist can work at
later. Effleurage as well as starting a massage can be a good way to
complete a massage often great for relaxing the patient if the massage
has been particularly painful.
Petrissage is a kneading type of massage used for deeper tissues and to
release and mobilize fluids. It stretches muscle fibres and induces
relaxation of deeper muscles. This is an especially firm type of
massage so specific care should be taken with tight or sore areas of
the body. As it works deep down mobilizing fluids in deeper muscle
tissues it is important to ensure the area is appropriately warmed up
and the fibers involved are stretched before kneading. This type of
useful massage comprises the main body of a sports massage once other
techniques are done.
Frictions are used primarily for exploratory purposes as well as deeper
movements which can at times be painful. These movements are generally
aimed at specific areas of need breaking down lesions, separating
muscle fibers and breaking down scar tissue. In this way they are seen
to be very important for sports massages aimed at recovery after injury.
When performing this moves the sensory pad of thumb is used to grasp
the skin and move it out the way so any abnormalities are discovered,
which would otherwise go undetected. This allows the therapist to
'palpate' around joints and detect smaller abnormalities in tissues.
Before carrying out friction movements especially to break down
lesions, scar tissue and break up muscle fibers, the client is always
warned that these procedures can be quite painful and very
uncomfortable to endure. However, the movements normally only take a
little while and the athlete is always allowed time to recover. It is
important before dreading this type of massage to remember that without
proper care such lesions and scar tissue may create long term damage
and possibly result is surgery.
Contra-indications for sports massage
Although sports massage is a beneficial activity, there are times when
it could do more damage than good. Here are a few things to be aware
of. If in doubt always make the therapist aware.
- A body
temperature of over 100 F
traumas (open wounds, muscle tears, severe bruising, sprained
burns and chilblains)
skin diseases of any kind
- If you
react badly to massage in general - Diabetes (as blood sugar
can be affected)
severely dehydrated as massage can dehydrate you even more
massage is also a brilliant way to keep in top form, ward off injury
recover from intensive training schedules. However, take care to find a
therapist that you trust, is appropriately skilled, and you feel
comfortable with. If for any reason you feel the massage is incorrect
or causing far too much pain (near levels of injury) then do speak up.
Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach. Visit
website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk
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