During my time working as an injury specialist I have often been asked what makes a massage a “sports” massage and what it actually does to help you. In this article I will try and shed a bit of light on the matter, and give you an explanation as to why people put themselves through the sometimes brutal procedure carried out by worryingly sadistic practitioners (myself included) who love nothing more than to dig their thumbs into a client’s back and hear them scream.
Massage has been used for a long time, I say long time, there’s evidence of massage being used as a therapeutic modality since ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Greek civilisations, so let’s say a VERY long time. In 460BC the brilliantly named Hippocrates discovered and noted the remedial effects of “rubbing” on the human body. Judging by the look of him I’m not sure I would like him to be the one “rubbing” me!
Now, a lot of other articles I’ve read on sports massage go into every detail of the history of massage. This is 1) incredibly boring and 2) pretty useless knowledge unless your specialist subject on Mastermind happens to be “ancient massage techniques and their progression through the ages”, which would be odd.
If however you’re thinking-
“Wait Jack, the whole reason I opened this article was to cure my thirst for knowledge on ancient rubbing techniques” (innuendo not intended) then may I point you in the direction of these fantastic links which will provide you with a solid background into the subject.
Right, now onto the main reason you’re here, what makes sports massage so great. Again if you read online articles you will find a lot of sites will list the benefits using complicated or scientific terms you may not understand, this is pretty pointless as if you don’t have a clue what lymphatic flow is, you’re pretty unlikely to be swayed into getting a massage because it increases it.
“Darling, I’m just off to get a massage!”
“Oh really, why’s that dear?”
“Well my lymphatic flow is feeling a little subdued and I want to pep it up a bit!” See…weird.
So in this little guide I will quickly explain what these effects actually mean and how they will make you a better person (physically not morally).
Effect 1 – Sports massage can help create a pump within the muscle.
The movements involved in massage cause an increase in pressure in the front of the stroke, this in turn creates a vacuum behind it. This vacuum sucks blood into the muscles through the vessels. This is particularly important in tight, damaged muscles where blood flow may have been decreased. Blood flow to the muscles is important as it will provide vital nutrients and energy required for repair.
“Blood flow to the muscles is important as it will provide vital nutrients and energy required for repair.”
Effect 2- Sports massage increases muscle permeability
Massage opens pores within the deep tissue, this enables fluids and nutrients to pass through. This helps aid the removal of waste products within the muscle which if left to their own devices would mess you up good and proper (or at least leave you a bit sore). It also encourages the muscle to take up nutrients and oxygen from the blood aiding recovery!!
Pretty good so far eh, all this nutrient uptake! But wait! There’s more!!
Effect 3- Sports massage stretches the muscles and tissues
Hard training can make tissues hard and inelastic. This is one reason why hard training may not result in improvements. Massage helps reverse this by stretching the tissues. Bundles of muscle fibres are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways. Massage can also stretch tissues that could not be stretched in the usual methods such as the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up, lovely jubbly.
Effect 4- Sports massage can break down scar tissue.
We’ve all felt those grisly bits in your shoulders when someone has rubbed them, or around an old injury. That’s normally caused by a build up of scar tissue. Scar tissue build up is part of the body’s healing process but it can negatively affect your muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to inflexible tissues which are more prone to injury and pain.
“Scar tissue build up is part of the body’s healing process but it can negatively affect your muscles, tendons and ligaments.”
Effect 5- Sports massage can help reduce pain.
Sports massage has several means of reducing your pain. Some are simple, as mentioned it can cause a pump and remove the waste products causing pain in a muscle such as lactic acid. The more complicated ways involve a funky little thing called your dorsal horn (bet you didn’t know you had a horn!) and the tracts that lead up to your brain as well as the release of endorphins (happy hormones) into the body but that is all far to complicated/boring for an article such as this! If you feel you cant go on without knowing more about your dorsal horn then drop me an email and I’ll tell you more!
Yep all those benefits just from some “rubbing” pretty impressive isn’t it!
Of course ideally everyone should be getting massaged every couple of days to keep us in top shape however unless you’re a Euromillions winner you’re not likely to be up for the financial burden this would bring. However, sports massage is definitely something worth bumping up your priority list, just one a month can greatly benefit, particularly if you have a job that requires sitting at the desk for long periods or driving long distances as these are the kind of jobs where repetitive actions or poor posture can lead to a build up of factors that will eventually lead to pain.
So whether you’re a high level athlete, weekend warrior, gym bunny or just have a job that causes you stress (physically and mentally) then massage can help!
Go on, treat yourself!
For more info or to book in for a sports massage get in touch on the contact us page
massage. Taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/justanotherhuman/16724286121/
Author: Michael / JustAnotherHuman https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Hippocrates Statue and Dooley Hospital Door. Taken from – https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewbain/1523666727/
Author: Andrew Bain https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/