What is sports massage?
Sports massage is designed to help athletes before, during and after training. It is useful for anyone who exercises to increase flexibility, prevent injuries and help with healing after a sports injury.
Sports massage is specifically tailored to different sports and sporting injuries. It is not a relaxing form of massage and can often be quite strenuous. It works by stretching tight muscles, stimulating inactive muscles and improving the condition of the soft tissue
The aim of sports massage is to reduce the stress and tension that can build up in the soft tissues of the body during exercise. This form of massage is used to:
- increase endurance
- improve performance
- reduce the chance of injury
- reduce recovery time after an injury
What does a sports massage involve?
Before the massage begins, your therapist will talk to you about your health and lifestyle. They will ask you to lie on a massage table and will cover you with towels to protect your privacy and to keep you warm. They will probably use creams or oils to help them to massage your skin smoothly.
Sports massage does not have a specific technique. It depends on the training the person is doing and the nature of the injury or condition. It borrows from techniques used in other disciplines like physiotherapy and osteopathy.
- soft tissue release: locking and stretching the tissues and muscles
- neuromuscular technique: targeting trigger points in the nervous system to get rid of pain and tension
- positional release: used to relax hyperactive muscles
- fascial release: deep, slow kneading used to release the connective tissues around the muscles
You will be expected to move around quite a lot and communicate continually with your therapist so they can respond to how your body is feeling. You might feel some discomfort during a sports massage. Always tell your therapist if you are in any pain.
What are health benefits of sports massage?
One of the main benefits of sports massage is that it can prevent sore muscles after exercise (known as 'delayed onset muscle soreness'). It also helps someone to exercise more efficiently and prevent some of the common ailments that go with exercise.
Sports massage may also improve heart rate and blood pressure, increase circulation and lymph flow, and help treat injuries, including shin splint, tennis elbow, sprains and strains.
Sports massage is often safe after an injury, although there are some injuries for which it is not suitable. If you are using sports massage for any health condition or injury, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist first.
Visit healthdirect's massage therapy guide to identify some of the different types of massage available and help you to choose a massage therapist.
Massage therapy is generally considered safe if it is done properly by a trained professional. Contact Massage & Myotherapy Australia (Australian Association of Massage Therapists) on 03 9602 7300 for more information.
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Last reviewed: May 2021