This attempts to explore why sports massage is so often used by elite athletes and ask how it can help you.
It also outlines some practicalities of finding a sports masseur that will help you improve your performance, prevent injuries, speed up recovery and not waste your money.
Why should you get a regular sports massage? Prevention and recovery from injury
What should you expect from a massage?
How often should I get a massage?
A check list of things to look for when finding a masseur
Final considerations and money
Why should you get a regular massage?
Prevention and recovery from injury
Elite athletes have benefited from massage for many years. Club athletes are now beginning to realise that they too can benefit from massage.
“The factor that probably boosted Paula Radcliffe’s performance more than any other is her ability to regenerate. Her regular massages were to give extra maintenance to the whole body. Above all it’s to give Paula’s muscles and tendons the best chance to recover from the heavy workloads she puts them through” The training secrets of Paula Radcliffe article written by Orlando Pizzolato in TN40 July 2003.
There is one reason why it is vitally important that all athletes get a regular massage:
Sports Massage Improves Performance
Improvement is surely the reason why we go out in the pouring rain, wear strange clothing, sweat and toil as we rush along the street or around the track.
After a good massage you will feel lighter, more powerful, more flexible, and those little aches and pains you thought were normal will be gone. Massage reduces the likelihood of injuries, so you can keep going despite the rain!
How long do you spend talking or thinking about those little niggles, aches, pains and full-blown injuries?
How much time do you spend preventing those niggles becoming injuries that will stop you training?
A good masseur will be able to prevent injury in many ways.
The masseur can identify if you are training correctly. If, for example, you are running on the camber of a road too much this will show itself to a masseur by the imbalance and tilt of your pelvis and associated muscles. The masseur will then be able to release the areas of tension that would otherwise develop into an injury and give you training advice.
The masseur will also be able to identify the areas we all have that are naturally tight or weak that could lead to an injury. The massage will enable tight areas to be loosened and the areas to be strengthened. This will allow the body to become balanced and therefore less likely to become injured.
One small note of caution is that there are a few situations where massage may do more harm than good. However, this should not be for the athlete to worry about as any qualified massage therapist will know when they cannot help and you should be referred to another health professional.
Some injuries are brought about by overuse of a particular muscle. Overuse injuries often result in sore, painful and inflamed muscles. Massage will reduce the likelihood of the muscle becoming overused in the first place. Massage will reduce the initial inflammation that leads to an overuse injury. Massage will straighten out fibres from the mess that is often left after training thus allowing the otherwise overused muscles fibres to work productively.
The running high is legendary, but more powerful is the running low. Often the cause of this running low is injury. Not being able to train can make you feel depressed, lethargic and ultimately puts you back a stage.
The best thing about being injured is that you realise the importance of being healthy!
Massage will increase the speed at which you recover and, as stated earlier, will reduce the likelihood of any reoccurrence of the injury.
Massage is most effective at treating soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains and repetitive stress injury etc.
All injuries will result in scar tissue. Scar tissue results from a tear to a usually straight (think uncooked spaghetti) and effective muscle fibre. When the muscle tissue rebuilds itself, it rebuilds in a mess of fibres (think cooked spaghetti). These fibres are strong but are not effective for movement and it becomes more likely that the fibres around the injured mess will become strained and more likely to become injured in the future. Massage will straighten this mess of fibres to allow the fibres to rebuild in a straight line again. The result will be that you are back to normal functioning and it is less likely to have another tear.