15 Sports Massage Benefits And Tips To Know Before You Book
It’s so easy to count it out, but recovery is an important step of any training program. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the gym or getting ready to run your next marathon. Any kind of exercise puts your body through wear and tear, so you want to give your muscles and tendons the opportunity to properly repair. This is why many active people opt for a form of massage therapy called a sports massage. But what is a sports massage, exactly?
It’s not like the one you’d typically receive at the spa. Instead, a sports massage is a treatment aimed at preventing injuries and keeping you in tip-top shape. Here, you’ll find a list of the top benefits of sports massage, plus pro tips to know before you book your first appointment.
The first thing to know is that you can get one any time, but they can be especially beneficial before or after a big race or athletic event. While techniques used in a sports massage may sometimes seem similar to those used during a deep-tissue massage, the two have different end goals, says Beret Kirkeby, owner of Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage.
“For comparison sake, if you were offered a sports massage vs. a deep-tissue, the sports massage would probably take your [physical] activities into account and try to tailor the treatment to fit both the time and kind of activity, whereas a deep-tissue massage would be more about pressure and general lifestyle.”
Not to say you won’t feel pressure during a sports massage. While sports massages aren’t typically supposed to hurt, you may experience some tenderness and discomfort, especially if your massage therapist is working on an area that’s already injured, sore, or tight, says Kirkeby.
Now that you’ve got the basics, keep reading to learn more about sports massages from a licensed massage therapist.
Vet any potential sports massage therapist carefully.
“Pick someone who makes you comfortable, has a good resumé, and knows your sport,” advises Kirkeby. If available, read testimonials and reviews from other clients to get a sense of what to expect from your experience.
Timing is everything.
You can schedule a sports massage pre, post, or during an event, but don’t try anything new too close to the big day. “The time period is entirely dependent on what works for your body,” says Kirkeby. But it’s typically recommended not to try new massage techniques too close to a big event, since you don’t know how it will impact your performance.
It’s typical for your massage therapist to ask you a few questions before your first session.
The answers will help your massage therapist know what your goals are and understand how to treat you. “It is very important to have a solid interview process in place,” says Kirkeby. “For one person, a sports massage might mean that they are being stretched for an hour and moved around, and for someone else, it might mean that they’re getting something closer to that deep-tissue kind of definition.”
Make sure you’re well-hydrated before your massage.
…and that you go pee beforehand. “Nothing worse than having to break your Zen to ask to use the facilities,” says Kirkeby. A hydrated body makes your muscles easier to work with during a massage, since dehydration can make them stiffer.
Avoid certain medications before your sports massage.
Kirkeby advises that some medications, like pain relievers and muscle relaxers, can get you sent home. “The ones your massage therapist would be concerned about you taking before your massage are any medication that alters your sense of touch or impairs you.” These kinds of medications can make it difficult for you to give your therapist accurate feedback. Some blood-thinning medication can also leave you more susceptible to bruising.
But if you have an ongoing condition that requires medication, be sure to talk to your massage therapist about it. “For most medications, simply knowing that you are on them allows the therapist to modify the treatment to protect your safety and health,” says Kirkeby.
Your appointment will likely involve more than a massage.
“Your sports massage may include, movement, resistance exercise, stretching, mobilizations, and a host of ‘other’ stuff that has its own results apart from a nice rub,” Kirkeby says. Your therapist may also be certified or very knowledgeable in other scopes of practice, which could be a bonus for you. In her experience, Kirkeby has hired massage therapists who are sometimes competitive athletes themselves.
Sports massages can help you become more flexible.
Chances are your sports massage may include stretching. Stretching exercises can gradually increase your muscles’ extensibility (aka flexibility) since you are basically training them increase their range of motion.
But they don’t help you get rid of lactic acid buildup.
It’s a common fitness misconception that a build up of lactic acid in your muscles is what causes soreness (though it is what causes that burn you feel when working hard). It’s also a myth that massages can help “break down” this excess lactate in your system—your body does that automatically shortly after you stop exercising. In truth, researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes sore muscles, but what they do know is that sports massages actually impair the removal of lactic acid from muscles because of the manual compression a massage creates, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal. If you’re looking for a way to help your body use up the extra lactic acid it generates during a hard workout like HIIT or heavy weight lifting in order to keep your cells energized, opt for active recovery instead. The same study found that it can help your system use up that added fuel faster than passive recovery.
That said, a sports massage can help alleviate pain.
It does so by lowering your body’s overall stress level(partly thanks to those “feel good” endorphins), getting your blood flowing, and relieving muscle tension, all which lead to better recovery.
Plus, a sports massage can help you heal from or prevent an injury.
“Sports massage may be part of your [pre-event] routine to get you ready to go or part of your rehab routine to help you get back going,” Kirkeby explains.
You’ll probably sleep better after a sports massage too.
Relaxed muscles will lead to better sleep by cutting down on sleep disturbances, according to a study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy. Plus, massages in general turn down your stress, making it easier for you to shut down your body at bedtime.
Just know that it’s normal to feel a little tender after a sports massage.
“Having chronically tight muscles and then relaxing can lead to the feeling of soreness,” says Kirkeby. Some people can tolerate rougher massages than others, so you should work with someone who’s receptive to the needs of your body.
A sports massage can help you manage your race or game day jitters.
It can help you get your head in the game by mindfully addressing some of your worries, says Kirkeby, whose worked with plenty of professional athletes. “[The] focus is on things that concern them, like old injuries. Being touched and having the tissue manipulated often makes them feel more in their bodies, as far as a sensory awareness.”
Sports massages can help women deal with hormonal changes.
Female athletes have more hormone fluctuations, explains Kirkeby. “For some women, certain times of the month can cause extreme fatigue, and so if you’re a serious athlete, you might be seeking more than a little bump to your R&R regime at that time,” she says. “Sports massages might fill that hole by letting someone facilitate more rest than you normally get.”
Technically, you can work out the same day you get a sports massage, but it’s not recommended.
“I would highly recommend maximizing your rest days and times. Recovery is just as important as training,” says Kirkeby. It’s important to give your body enough time to properly repair itself and experience the benefits of your sports massage.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com