For your reading pleasure I’ve included a long and a short answer to this question. If you’d like the short answer click here. If you enjoy a bit of leisurely waffle however, then read on.
What is your sport?
It might be something obvious like cricket, surfing, netball or footy. Perhaps you enjoy a more exotic pursuit such as roller disco, pole dancing or annihilating chicken poo with your favourite garden hose setting. “ASTA LA VISTA, BABY.” (Don’t even mention bat poo, because the mere thought of that diabolical substance is enough to induce a migraine, let alone any hose-related sports injury.)
Getting back to the original question however, in order to get some perspective here, let’s look around at some terms which include the title of “sports” to get an idea. There are sports drinks, sports bags, sports cars, sports creams and sports watches just to name a few. Then we have our sports shoes, sports clothes, sports hats, sport bikes, sports boats, sports sunglasses and (ironically somehow) sports bars .. You get the picture. So with all the lack of clarity about what warrants the term “sports” in relation to a product, it’s no wonder people get themselves into a twist about what constitutes a sports massage. Boom boom!
So what can I expect from a Sports Massage?
Firstly, I think it’s safe to say that, as with other products, when you take away the label “sports”, it’s still just a massage and therefore available to anyone. Sports massage is a treatment that targets problem areas which may relate to a sport or any other activity which places strain on muscles and joints. Sure, there is such a thing as pre-event and post-event sports massage at professional sporting events, which are also distinct from one another by the way. The aim though is ultimately the same, which is to achieve a state of balance, of equilibrium, of homeostasis. Not a state of over or under stimulation, but one which encourages mental clarity as well as peak physical performance. Psychologically, human touch alone can give a sense of reassurance, grounding and calm to pre-event nerves. Combine this with some well-timed stimulation at the right pace and pressure and you have an athlete who is well prepared for the task ahead. Post event massage on the other hand will have a more relaxing feel and pace to it, with goals such as flushing excess lactic acid and relaxing hypertonic (or tight) muscles.
What about Those of Us who aren’t Sports Professionals?
For the amateur sports person who only plays their sport once a week let’s say – the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons may receive more of a shock and can therefore be more at risk of injury if they’re insufficiently strengthened or not properly warmed up before activity. So provided you’re not suffering from an acute injury, the same applies here as with professional sports massage both pre and post event.
So how do I know if I need a Sports Massage?
Apart from regular sporting activities, there are many activities (be they irregular, periodic or occasional) which can cause muscle pain that can be well complimented by sports massage. For example, a weekend away fishing, a working bee in the garden or helping a friend to move house. In fact, any repetitive and/or strenuous movement to which your body isn’t accustomed can cause muscular pain. Generally the kind of pain that can be helped by sports massage is the dull/aching type. Beware of more severe pain which has a sharp/shooting, burning, bright/lightning, deep nagging or numbness/tingling quality, which could indicate nerve impingement or damage, joint pathology or something more serious. Obvious physical disfigurement would be another red flag. In other words, don’t show up for a massage if one of your legs is suddenly a lot longer than the other or your head is facing the wrong way. In that condition, you should probably head straight to the emergency department of your local hospital!
Sports massage can help by relaxing tight muscles, stretching them back out to their ideal length and therefore helping to bring your body back into alignment and be pain free. So for those times when you need to move in a way that isn’t part of your normal routine – relax – help is at hand with sports massage. And yes it’s possible you could hit the ground running on Monday without showing up to work looking like somebody tied your feet to your neck. Gotta love that old chestnut. Nothing like a bit of weekend R&R. 😛