You don’t have to be an athlete to injure yourself while exercising. Sports massage can be as vital a part of rehabilitation for a pro football player with a serious injury as it can be for a casual jogger with a mild strain. What is it:Sports massage is a catchall term for the therapies that can be applied to an athlete or someone participating in an athletic activity. As an article in Massage Today points out, the precise definition will change depending on the licensed massage therapist (LMT) you’re speaking to. The key takeaway is that sports massage, in the hands of an experienced LMT, can be anything the patient needs it to be. For a runner before a marathon, sports massage can become a way of readying their legs for the endurance trial to come. For a martial artist undergoing intense training, sports massage can ease the muscle soreness that comes after heavy workouts. And for an athlete seriously injured by their activity of choice, sports massage can be a huge step on the road to full recovery. What it does:As this personally tailored approach implies, sports massages are more targeted than other massage therapies. The therapist might only work on your ankles, hip flexors, or shoulders, depending on what you desire. Many of the techniques employed—stroking, kneading, rubbing, striking, vibrating, etc.—are similar to those seen in Swedish and deep-tissue massage. Sometimes the therapists speed up the strokes to increase flexibility and prevent athletic injuries; sometimes they are gentle and delicate; sometimes they exert very deep and fast pressure. Again, it all depends on what you need.Where it's from:According to an article in Massage Magazine, massage of some variety was practiced by European athletes throughout the 20th century. The techniques used then were a natural extension of the “Swedish” system frequently attributed to Pehr Henrik Ling (though it was actually an invention of a 19th-century Dutchman named Johann Georg Mezger). Sports massage became more widely known as its own entity after the 1972 Olympic Games, when a Finnish track and field star credited the therapy for two of his big wins. He was treated with “deep friction techniques,” which were pioneered by a doctor named James Cyriax and remained popular throughout the 1970s and '80s. It’s this method of deep-pressure massage therapy that is most frequently associated with sports massage, though it is not the only technique employed by sports massage therapists today.Watch and learn more about sports massage:
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