What is sports massage?
Sports massage isn’t a very clear term, so what does it actually mean?
As a Soft Tissue Therapist, and Sports and Remedial Massage Therapist, I have been trained in muscular anatomy as well as how to assess, treat and provide rehabilitation for soft tissue injuries.
I will start the session with an assessment of the area of pain or injury. I might look at your posture, walking or running, which helps me to pick the best treatment approach. You may need to show me the movements that cause discomfort or that you have struggled to do in order to work out where the issue might be. The relevant joints will be assessed to check whether the joint, muscles, or both may be causing the issue. Muscles can also be tested to see whether they are firing in the right order and are functioning correctly.
There are a number of different techniques that are used in treatments. I usually start with more traditional techniques, moving through layers of muscle with massage. This allows me to work through the tissues and get a sense of how they are. I’m looking for tightness, swelling, heat and a lack of elasticity. This massage also stretches out the tissues, calms the muscles and resets the level of muscle activation.
There are certain painful, tight points in the muscles. When these release, the surrounding muscle releases too. This involves pressing into the tender spot of a muscle for time, whilst feeling for the muscles reaction, and listening to your feedback of course. In a way, trigger points are similar to acupuncture points; I just use my thumbs to work them, not needles.
Soft Tissue Release (STR) combines stretching with deep massage, so whilst massaging into the muscle, the affected area of the body is also moved and stretched. For example; massaging into the calf muscles whilst moving your ankle or knee joint to stretch the calf muscles.
One of my favourite techniques is Muscle Energy Technique (MET). This uses a muscle reflex where they can relax more after they’ve moved. I get you to use the muscle gently, for example by pressing into my hand, and after some deep breathing you relax the muscle and I can more effectively stretch the muscle for you. This works very well on shoulders that have moved forwards, usually from lots of time driving or at a desk, and cause upper back and neck pain.
Myofascial Release is also a brilliant technique. Fascia is an elastic material that covers every muscle and part of the body. It merges with the joints and is a complex elastic web that spans your whole body. When muscles get tight the fascia is tight too, so gentle techniques over the skin to relate it have good results.
Treatment sessions usually involve a combination of these assessment and treatments; it varies individual to individual. Everyone is unique so the different techniques work in slightly different ways for different people.
At the end of your appointment you’ll be given advice and “homework” covering what you can do between sessions to help, for example stretches, exercises and ways you can release your muscles at home.
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About Alexa Duckworth-Briggs
Alexa is a sports and remedial massage therapist; supporting a fitter, healthier and active life. I assess, treat and rehabilitate soft tissue aches, pains and injuries so you can enjoy your life and sport.
Level 5 in Sports and Remedial Massage from the London School of Sports Massage
UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness, Endurance Event Group