I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.
Sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm up, to enhance circulation, and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming up the major muscles to be used and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete; others can be stimulating. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly focused on recovery. It is geared toward reducing muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session can range from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours in length. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
If you are a massage therapist, or sports physical therapist, it might be a good idea to explain what a this type of massage will accomplish and what to expect. At first, a Deep Tissue massage might feel like your typical Swedish massage. First, your therapist will warm up and prepare your muscles by applying light pressure to the areas that require attention. Only after your muscles have been sufficiently prepared will your therapist begin applying specific techniques. The most commonly used strokes in Deep Tissue massages are stripping and friction. Stripping usually involves your therapist applying deep and gliding pressure to the length of your muscle fibers with an elbow, forearm, knuckles or thumbs. Friction, on the other hand, applies pressure across the grain of the muscle in order to relieve adhesions and realign the fibers of the tissue.
Sheets and wrappings of connective tissue called fascia are considered an exciting frontier in massage therapy. Supposedly fascia can get tight and needs to be “released.” However, key examples of research either fail to support fascial therapy or actually undermine it — for instance, fascia is too tough to actually change. Fascia enthusiasm seems to be a fad. For more information, see Does Fascia Matter? A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties. BACK TO TEXT
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The therapist may utilize some Swedish techniques to warm up the tissues (kneading, friction, percussion), softening the superficial layers so that he or she can access the deeper ones more easily. Then, with little or no lotion, the therapist utilizes the hard surfaces of their hands and arms — surfaces such as fingers, knuckles, forearms, and elbows — and employs a very slow, sustained type of stroke.
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However, since having the feet or hands rubbed is an enjoyable and relaxing experience for most people, there is little doubt that hand and foot reflexology can promote stress relief and a sense of well being in much the same way as any other form of massage. This therapy may be an especially useful complementary treatment for neuropathy of the legs, feet and toes. It can also be useful for sore hands and feet after a workout, running or taking a long walk.
I’ve worked in a variety of exciting environments, including the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Greece Paralympic Summer Games and on the road with the U.S. National Powerlifting Team. Plus, I have worked with collegiate, ABL and WNBA athletes. Currently, I travel with the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) as part of the sports science and medicine team. In my private clinic, I specialize in orthopedic massage.
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