Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons.
But you don't have to be in the Olympics to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage is also good for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion. The massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area. (Sore neck and shoulders, anyone?) This is the type of sports massage that you see in the spa.
What Happens During Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a type of Swedish massage that stimulates circulation of blood and lymph fluids. Some sports massage movements use trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles) and increase range of motion.
There are four types of sports massages:
- Pre-event sports massage -- a short, stimulating massage 15 - 45 minutes before the event. It is directed toward the parts of the body that will be involved in the exertion.
- Post-event sports massage -- given within an hour or two of the event, to normalize the body's tissues.
- Restorative sports massage -- given during training to allow the athelete to train harder and with less injury.
- Rehabilitative sports massage -- aimed at alleviating pain due to injury and returning the body to health.
When Should I Get A Sports Massage?
A sports massage is a good choice if you have a specific problem -- a tender knee from running, for instance. It is also be a good idea to see a movement therapist, who can help you identify and correct the movement pattern that might be causing your injury in the first place. The therapist generally focuses in on the problem area -- a frozen shoulder or pulled hamstring, for instance -- rather than giving you a full-body massage.
Sometimes men who are new to the spa are more comfortable getting a sports massage because it sounds more masculine. That's fine, even if they don't have an injury.
No matter what type of massage you choose, the therapist should check in with you about what your needs and expectations are for the massage.