If You Play Sports, You Can Benefit from Sports Massage
The most important myth to dispel about sports massage is that it's reserved for professional athletes. The truth is that many people could benefit from regular sports massage appointments, from casual joggers looking to overcome mild strains to rec league basketball players who want to reduce their risk of injury. In order to demystify this underused practice, we've collected answers to some of the most common questions about the treatment.
What is sports massage?
Sports massage is a catchall term for any bodywork therapy intended for people participating in athletic activity. In practice it usually refers to massages that do one of two things:
- Help you prepare before a sporting event or activity
- Help you recover afterward (either from normal exertion or from an injury)
What are some sports massage benefits?
Some benefits of sports massage are still under study, but there's evidence that it can be an effective way to:
- Reduce recovery time between workouts
- Improve athletic performance
- Help prevent injury
- Aid in recovering from injuries that do occur
How does sports massage work?
There are a few ways a sports massage can deliver the benefits above. First, by improving blood circulation, the treatment reduces muscle soreness, which leads to faster recoveries from workouts. Second, by relieving muscle tension, massage improves the body's flexibility and range of motion. This improvement in turn leads to better athletic performance and reduced risk of injury.
Who should get a sports massage?
Massage therapists can adapt their sports massage treatments to address all kinds of scenarios. For example, here are some reasons different athletes might use the service:
- Runners: readying your legs for the endurance trial of a marathon
- Weightlifters: easing the muscle soreness that comes after intense training
- Swimmers: lengthening your muscles to help you perform each stroke properly
- Intramural athletes: keeping your muscles loose to prevent hurting yourself during sports you only play recreationally
What happens during a sports massage?
Sports massages tend to be more targeted than other massage therapies. The therapist might only work on your ankles, hip flexors, or shoulders, depending on what you're trying to accomplish.
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 help with your flexibility; sometimes they are gentle and delicate; sometimes they exert very deep and fast pressure. Again, it all depends on what you need.
How should you prepare for a sports massage?
There are a few things you can do beforehand to get the most out of your massage. It's a good idea to hydrate, since this prevents muscles and fascia from becoming stiff and inflexible. However, you shouldn't eat a big meal prior to your appointment. The treatment may slow down your digestive process, making for an uncomfortable session. Lastly, if the reason for your massage involves a serious injury, get it checked out by a doctor first. Even though massage therapists may be able to help treat certain medical problems, they aren't qualified to diagnose them.
How do you find a sports massage therapist?
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