Athletes are increasingly considering sports massage to be an essential part of their training and recovery routines, helping them improve their overall performance, prevent injury, hasten recovery, loosen tight muscles, and identify muscle imbalances that could otherwise threaten an athlete’s wellbeing. Sports massage therapy programs are now often being used as regular supplements to other warm-up activities. After all, if muscle discomfort is continuously ignored, then there is a serious risk of not only hindering the athlete’s further physical growth, but also making him or her more susceptible to developing a permanent, debilitating condition. When received regularly, massage therapy may help athletes prevent many common injuries.
Massage therapy is a preventive approach to athletic training whereby soft tissues are freed of their many trigger points and adhesions, thus improving muscular function. Injury avoidance is also achieved because it allows a massage therapist to detect muscle imbalances. Screening for these muscle imbalances is a prime way to prevent injury, as there may be correctable abnormalities in muscle strength and length causing this pain and dysfunction. Massage therapy can also relieve stress points in muscles before they result in restrictions. The direct pressure utilized in massage therapy serves to treat and breakdown these troublesome areas. In fact, sports massage therapy training allows a therapist to often apply firmer and deeper techniques than are often used in general massage. After all, a sports massage needs to be applied deeper in order to manipulate muscle tissue more effectively. Massage therapists utilize various corrective techniques in order to help an athlete achieve an overall healthier state, as well as treat areas that are not yet pronounced, but are apt to develop into future injuries. Below are some of the many sports injuries that can be avoided with regular massage therapy:
A twist or pull to a muscle or tendon that causes the muscle fibers to tear, a strain is an injury that results from overstretching or over-contraction. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasm, and loss of strength. Massage stretches tight tissues and improves the overall elasticity of tissues, making it easier to avoid strains during regular activity. Massage also helps to prevent the adhesions in muscles that restrict their full range of motion. Increased flexibility, strength, and range of motion can be achieved through regular visits to the massage therapist, resulting in improved overall power and performance.
Sprains are caused by trauma that knocks a joint out of position and tears a tendon or ruptures the supporting ligaments. Joints can be pulled out of alignment by tight, unbalanced muscles that cause abnormal wear and tear. Sprains can range from a minimally stretched ligament to a complete tear. Signs of a sprain include tenderness or pain, bruising, inflammation, swelling, immobility, or joint instability. Massage therapy can promote the flexibility needed to keep tendons and ligaments loose, and therefore less likely to stretch and tear.
An athlete’s muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons are dangerously overworked when utilized in activity requiring specific, repetitive motions. A build-up of tension from this overuse may lead to preventable, but dangerous stresses on these vital body mechanics. Tension makes muscles and tendons tighter, increasing the risk of injury. However, massage therapy strengthens the muscles and ligaments in your overused joints. Regular massage makes muscles firmer and more elastic, and therefore more likely to withstand such constant use.
Massage therapy can increase the body’s ability to avoid frustrating, nagging injuries. Massage therapy promotes increased blood and lymphatic circulation through congested muscle tissue, and can reduce the likelihood of suffering reoccurring injury. Additionally, massage therapy increases the overall conditioning and tone of an athlete’s muscles by mechanically stimulating the natural reflexes found within muscle fibers, further preparing muscles to steer clear of injury.
Heat affects everyone engaged in physical activity. When performing a sport or activity, body temperature rises. Heat cramps occur when there is sudden muscle spasm that starts without being preempted by injury. This muscle tightness is often quite painful, and muscle cramps can be dangerous, as they limit mobility. Causes of heat cramps include dehydration and decreased blood flow to the muscles, and the athlete will also feel a resulting overall weakness. But massage therapy and other basic muscle-stretching exercises bring blood and oxygen to the muscles, and the pressure of massage improves blood flow to the muscles, thereby decreasing the tight and tired feeling in the affected muscles.
The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue running the entire length of the bottom of the human foot. Running, hiking, and other physical activities may cause the plantar fascia to become strained, and as the strain becomes greater, the plantar fascia is likely to tear or strain. Athletes suffering from plantar fasciitis should treat this condition with deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is applied by using deep finger pressure applied across the tendons of the fascia, Achilles heel, and calf muscles. Deep tissue massage can help to release the muscle tension caused by the strain, break the scar tissue, and lead to the potential elimination of plantar fasciitis.
However, any potential sports massage therapist should be able to provide you with substantial information regarding their credentials, specialized training, and educational background regarding sports massage therapy programs and massage therapy schools. Any worthwhile massage therapist should have a detailed and specific treatment plan ready in order to help prevent sports injuries. And a skilled massage therapist with extensive massage therapy training is necessary, as any misapplication of these techniques could prove dangerous.
Bethany Brewer is a freelance writer and health fanatic. She loves writing about education programs and personal health and wellness tips. When she’s not writing you can find Bethany hiking and playing tennis.