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Prime Health Journal: The Benefits of Sports Massage

From supporting an active body in between training sessions and events to combatting injury and tight muscles, sports massage is both a preventative and restorative treatment for those who live an active lifestyle.

Research cites the benefits of regular sports massage are increased focus, reduced stress and improved circulation. Such benefits demonstrate that regular sports massages should not be exclusive to sportsmen and athletes, but to everyone.

The population is steadily growing fitter and more active later in life, and people are living longer compared with former generations. A blended approach to treatment, health, and well-being can enhance an individual’s quality of life. Regular sports massage treatments can help improve stiff joints, muscle pain, and more.

Sports massage is a growing trend in both the athletic and medical sphere and there is endless information online about its pros and cons. Here is a definitive guide on sports massages to help weekend warriors or those simply looking to improve their mobility or reduce pain.

What is a sports massage?

A sports massage uses a mixture of techniques depending on the issues you are hoping to combat and any pain you are experiencing. Popular among athletes and those who live an active lifestyle, sports massage can be tailored according to the exercise that you do, or the muscle groups you use most often – though it is also a suitable and effective treatment for those experiencing joint pain and muscle tightness on a day to day basis.

What does a sports massage do?

Sports massage is a method of rehabilitation for those suffering from chronic pain, as well as a preventative and restorative treatment for those who undergo intense exercise. In short, it uses deep strokes to manipulate and work the muscles and tissues in the body – flushing out lactic acids and ensuring a quality and seamless blood supply to the tissues.

There are two main types of sports massage, one a lighter version which can be factored into a regular wellbeing routine, while the other is much deeper and is best suited to those suffering from a specific issue or pain. Outside of these two main groups, a sports massage can be tailored according to individual needs, preferences, and requirements.

Who would benefit from a sports massage?

While a sports massage is commonly referred to as a treatment for athletes and active people, sports massage is used by physiotherapists as a form of rehabilitation for pre and post-surgery, for those looking to improve mobility or minimise pain – proving that it can help people of all ages and across all activity levels.

Outside of the sports world, sports massage is becoming increasingly popular as a means of supporting the well-being of those in office jobs – with neck and back pain a common complaint among those who work at a desk all day. In the same way as it helps a highly active body, sports massage can manipulate and loosen the muscles which become tense through desk work and poor posture.

What is the difference between a sports massage and deep tissue massage?

When it comes to determining whether a sports massage or a more regular deep tissue massage is best for you, the primary difference lies in the approach to the massage and what it is designed to achieve.

While a deep tissue massage is typically a full body experience, sports massage is more deliberate in its motion and tends to target a specific area where you are experiencing pain, discomfort or reduced mobility.

Aside from that primary difference, sports and deep tissue massages use largely the same strokes and techniques, to help relieve pain and tension across the body or in specific areas.

6 benefits of regular sports massages

Some of the main benefits experienced by those who attend a regular sports massage session include:

1. Increased range of motion

Beneficial to both athletes and those fast approaching their older years, sports massage helps to keep the joints flexible and the muscles active and well-oiled – increasing your overall range of motion and making everyday movement easier.

2. It eliminates the build-up of lactic acid

Lactic acid is a by-product of exercise and can cause discomfort in the form of cramps, nausea, weakness, and shortness of breath if it is not worked out of the bloodstream.

Research cites sports massage is likely to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness when administered two to six hours after intense exercise.

3. Increased sense of well-being and calm

Contrary to popular belief, sports massage is not just for athletes – and it is not just for the benefits of physical activity. Through its deliberate motions and deep massage techniques, a sports massage can also exude a sense of calm, reducing anxiety and tension, and relaxing the muscles so that they are free to release endorphins.

4. It prevents injury

Sports massage is a way of helping to prevent injury as well as rehabilitate and treat it. When you receive a sports massage, you are helping to keep your muscles, tendons, and tissues in peak condition – working them through an optimised range of motion and keeping them warm and pliable. This means that any activity, from an intense workout to everyday lifting, is less likely to cause injury.

5. Aid recovery

If you experience an injury, have regular joint pain or have reduced mobility, a sports massage is a great way to aid recovery. Sports massage techniques help stimulate and increase blood flow to the affected joints and muscles which can help aid recovery.

6. It reduces pain

A benefit that’s heralded by every patient is that sports massage helps to reduce aching muscles and joint stiffness which is why it’s often included as part of rehabilitation following serious injury as well as post-sports recovery.

How often do you need a sports massage?

The regularity of your sports massage sessions will depend hugely on your level of activity and what you are having it for. It is recommended that athletes opt for a massage every week or fortnight, while other people can benefit from a monthly session.

By Nelly Ayres (redacted)

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