What does the word ‘massage’ bring to mind? You may think of scented oils and soothing music. Or perhaps you’re remembering that pounding you had from a massage machine. Massage can mean many things. In this article, we’ll take a look at some facts about sports massage.
1. Sports massage is not one thing
The term ‘sports massage’ is linked in many people’s minds with a very deep, intense type of therapy. But in fact, it can include a range of techniques and applications.
Its origins are perhaps based in Scandinavia and Russia. Early interest in using massage as a way to improve performance and health in athletes started with the ‘Flying Finn’, Paavo Nurmi. Nurmi won no less than five gold medals in a single day at the 1924 Olympics! And he put his success down to his massage therapist.
The Finnish school of massage took Swedish techniques, such as petrissage, as its basis, although other methods were incorporated.
Around the same time, a Russian physician named Dr Sarkisov-Sirasini became interested in the science of massage as applied to athletes. He opened the Clinic of Remedial Exercises and Massage at the Moscow Institute of Physical Culture in 1925. He taught many techniques, including effleurage, percussion and friction.
When you have a sports massage, then, you’ll get the benefits of both light and deep, intense and gentle therapy.
2. It’s not just about recovery
If you’ve ever entered an event, be it a marathon, triathlon or obstacle course, you’ll probably have seen a therapist working hard at the finish!
Evidence shows that sports massage can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). If you’ve ever struggled to lift the kettle a day or two after a hard weightlifting session, you’ll know about DOMS. One study demonstrated that sports massage can reduce swelling and DOMS by about 30%, so it’s worthwhile!
But did you know it can be great at helping you prepare for events, too?
A short, brisk massage can warm up your muscles, enhance circulation and improve flexibility. That puts you in better stead for finishing your event without injuring yourself.
Not only that, but it’s a great way of calming down those pre-race nerves!
3. It’s not just for sporty people
If you don’t take part in sport, is a sports massage a good choice for you?
Plenty of people struggle with tension, painful muscle knots, posture problems, anxiety and depression – and massage can help all of these!
Most of us know what it’s like to have knotty muscles, especially around the shoulders and neck. Knots, or ‘trigger points’, can inhibit a muscle from working at its best. A well-directed sports massage can work into these knots, melting them away, freeing muscles and easing pain.
Staying in one position for long periods of time will inevitably take a toll on your posture. Bodies adapt to how they’re used, so muscles will tighten and lengthen accordingly. If you’re trying to redress the balance, including some massage along with strengthening exercise can help get you back on track.
4. Sports massage shouldn’t be painful
Does the idea of a sports massage make you wince? Does the phrase, ‘No pain, no gain’ spring to mind? In this case, that’s just not true!
Pain makes people tense up. A tensed muscle won’t respond to the techniques as effectively as a relaxed one. An experienced therapist will be guided by the feel of your tissue under their hand to know how much pressure to apply.
That’s not to say that there won’t be some level of discomfort! But it should feel like a relieving discomfort. People describe it as a ‘good pain’, similar to stretching a sore muscle.
5. It’s good for your mind, too
So let’s talk about the mind-body connection. It comes as no surprise that massage should be a relaxing, feel-good experience. But why is this? And is there any evidence for it?
Treatment from your therapist affects your mind as well as your body. This is because it affects levels of hormones and neurotransmitters circulating in your system.
The level of the stress hormone cortisol is reduced by massage. Serotonin, which acts as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone, increases. It’s called the ‘happy hormone’, and it can boost mood and improve sleep.
Research demonstrates the positive effects of massage on people suffering from depression.
But beyond that, perhaps, is simply the value of touch. There are many well-documented studies that demonstrate our instinctive need for physical contact. And in a post-Covid world, when has the need been greater?
Ready for a sports massage?
If you want to try all these fantastic benefits for yourself, why not book a massage in our Dunstable or Leighton Buzzard clinic? Our massage therapists, Lisa and Clare, are qualified and highly experienced, so get in touch today!