A regular sports massage can help prevent injury by improving the condition of the muscles. A good massage therapist can identify muscle tightness, trigger points and scar tissue which if left untreated may lead to injury. Therapists should have a thorough understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body, in order to provide an effective treatment. Most have undertaken a sports massage qualification, although it is also a skill taught in courses such as sports therapy, physiotherapy and sports rehabilitation.
Sports massage can be used in the treatment of specific injuries, such as hamstring strains, as well as to help correct muscle imbalances, overuse and postural issues. It is these issues which should be corrected in order to prevent future injuries and improve the efficiency of our muscles and so enhance our performance.
Massage can :
- Maintain the body generally in better condition.
- Prevent injuries and loss of mobility.
- Cure and restore mobility to injured muscle tissue.
- Boost performance.
- Extend the overall life of your sporting career
Physical effects of massage
Pumping - The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
Increased tissue permeability - Deep massage causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through. This helps remove waste products such as lactic acid and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients which help them recover quicker.
Stretching - Massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched in the usual methods. Bundles of muscle fibers are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways. Massage can also stretch the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up.
Break down scar tissue - Scar tissue is the result of previous injuries or trauma and can effect muscle, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to inflexible tissues that are prone to injury and pain.
Improve tissue elasticity - 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.
Opens micro-circulation - Massage does increase blood flow to tissues, but so does exercise. What massage also does is open or dilate the blood vessels and by stretching them this enables nutrients to pass through more easily.
Physiological effects of sports massage
Pain reduction - Tension and waste products in muscles can often cause pain. Massage helps reduce this in many ways including releasing the bodies endorphins.
Relaxation - Muscles relax through heat generated, circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors which sense touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth are stimulated causing a reflex relaxation.
Psychological effects of massage
Anxiety reduction - through the effects mentioned above relaxation is induced and so reduces anxiety levels.
Invigorating - if massage is done with brisk movements such as what would be done before an event then this can produces an invigorating feeling.
What is a contraindication of sports massage?
A contraindication is something that should not be massaged. If you do, then further injury may be caused or even death! If you have any of the following conditions then massage would most likely be contraindicated (this list is not exhaustive):
Any cuts, lacerations or grazes. Obvious really, but it has to be said. You should wait until the scar has properly formed. This is usually between one and two weeks.
In the acute stage these may still be bleeding. Massage will increase bleeding and tissue damage and prolong recovery. After the initial 48 to 72 hours massage may be possible but it will depend on the extent of the injury.
The above also applies to tendon injuries. Complete ruptures will need surgery, not massage.
These are impact injuries causing bleeding within the muscle. Massage to a contusion may cause further damage and may lead to Myositis Ossificans (bone growth within the muscle).
Burns, Chilblains and Broken bones
Massaging all of these will hurt and cause damage. Don't do it.
This is inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the bone. Massage directly to the bone may cause irritation. You may be able to massage the surrounding muscles but stay well clear of the bone.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout
These are inflammatory conditions. The same rules apply here as to acute injuries. Massage may cause further inflammation.
Inflammation to a bursa. A bursa is a small sack of fluid that helps tendons pass over bones at joints. If there is pain, swelling and redness over the skin then massage should be avoided.
A bad contusion or muscle rupture may begin to calcify (grow bone). Massage will make the damage worse.
Infections of the skin and soft tissue
Bacterial infections, viral infections and fungal infections can be spread to other areas of the body by the therapist. Pain may also result from the infection, not an injury so massage will not help.
This is a rare but potentially lethal blood clot in a vein. It is common in the calf muscle area. A deep, sore pain in the belly of the muscle may be a thrombosis. If this is massaged, it may dislodge, travel up the veins and damage the heart.
Artificial blood vessels
Artificial blood vessels which are implanted through surgery should be avoided.
Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia
Massage may cause damage to tissues and bleeding.
If you are unsure of any lumps and bumps in the muscle or skin then leave well alone. Most often these lumps are muscle spasms or fatty tissue. An experienced therapist can usually tell.
Absolutely anything else you are not sure of!
Massage should only be done by qualified therapists and the writers of this site accept no responsibility for injury resulting from actions not under there direct supervision or control!