Sports Massage is commonly used to:-
- Aid recovery (post event).
- Improve performance.
- Physiologically & psychologically prepare an athlete (pre-event).
- Increase circulation.
- Increase flexibility.
- Increase mobility.
- Reduce the chance of injury.
- Treat tissue adhesions or scar tissue
- Treat Myofascial pain
- Treat Sports injuries
Sports Massage Therapy
Sports massage is a more advanced form of massage and includes deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage does not have to be painful and nor should it be. One can often experience discomfort during treatment, yet professional therapists will know how to work with the body. Applying brute force to tissues typically initiates the human stress response, and the muscles tense up as a protective measure. It is impossible to massage tense tissues effectively, yet some supposedly trained professionals still use brute force. Brute force will result in pain for the consumer and often tissue bruising, though bruising can sometimes occur anyway. Although sports massage comes under the scope of practice for many health and allied health professionals, training in the techniques is a tiny part of the qualifications. Hence, unless the practitioner has extensive training in the techniques, they may have little experience using them. Typically, large amounts of pain and bruising are not normal and should raise competency questions. See the article about (Finding a good, ethical Musculoskeletal health professional) for more details on what to look for and avoid
Should massage be painful and is that good?
Some consumers associate excruciating deep tissue massage treatment as a good thing, as they feel much better afterwards. The feeling good later is partly due to the pain stopping and then because the body releases endorphins. Endorphins are an opioid that reduces pain and makes us feel good, and the body releases it after pain or stress. However, we don't have to experience lots of pain and stress to get the benefits of endorphins, as they get released through other more enjoyable activities. Meaning that treatment does not need to be painful, and there is no real benefit of undergoing painful treatment.
Sports Massage Techniques
Sports Massage itself consists of four basic techniques:-
Effleurage is used to a large extent during Sports Massage to assess, warm up and relax tissues. It is common to use effleurage at the start and end of a Massage Therapy session too. The remaining Sports Massage techniques each work differently. Training and experience help ensure that the therapist selects the most appropriate method for the desired result. The desired outcome could be a reduction in Myofascial pain, to reduce tension associated with scar tissue or adhesions etc. However, there are other methods of treating Myofascial Pain, such as with Myofascial Dry Needling, Advanced Remedial Massage therapy and even Gua Sha or IASTM. Aspects of Remedial Massage and Gua Sha or IASTM can also work well with Scar Tissue and Adhesions.
Deep tissue massage techniques are usually used to improve muscle suppleness and joint flexibility. One does not have to play sport to find sports massage beneficial. Tissues within the body can change and lose suppleness from day to day life and a sedentary lifestyle. Gravity applies forces to the body on a daily basis, impacting the structure and function of movement. Such factors usually increase the load on tissues and underlying structures, resulting in pain. Such issues are not just about "correct posture". There is very little evidence even to suggest that there is such thing as a "correct posture". Holding any given position for an extended period will have an impact on various aspects of structure and function. The effect may just be increased tension, stiffness, pain, decreased mobility or any combination of these musculoskeletal changes.
Sports Massage Training and Education
Sports Massage training has changed a great deal over the years, and there are various levels of education and qualifications. Historically, one had to have completed a basic Massage Therapy course before being able to undertake the base Level 3 Sports Massage qualification. Today there are training providers running fast-track courses which take a day or even a week for the more advanced levels of qualification. However, many of the professional associations in the field have strict educational requirements governing hours relating to course content, duration and hands-on practical. Hence, there are many qualifications and indeed, practitioners who are not eligible for membership of said associations. As of 2018, the highest (QCF) recognised Sports and Remedial Massage qualification is the BTEC Level 5.
Unlike other Musculoskeletal-related professions Chiropractic, Musculoskeletal Medicine, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, there is no statutory regulator for massage therapy. There are multiple voluntary professional associations and even a voluntary regulator for massage therapy in the UK, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Such organisations have registration eligibility requirements covering, standards of practice, rules and regulations, acceptable minimal education, yearly continuing professional development (CPD), insurance, disciplinary processes and in some cases, a current first aid certificate. Such organisations and membership of said bodies help protect the general public and ensure a high level of standards. If a massage therapist is not a member of such a professional organisation, then one should ask the question as to why not? There is nothing to stop somebody working as a massage therapist even if they have been through a disciplinary process and banned from registering with one of the bodies mentioned above. In some severe cases, common law may have placed restrictions on an individual and what they can do or how they can work. Hence, it is best to carry out due diligence concerning any practitioner and ensure they are what they say they are.
Pre and Post Event Sports Massage
As the name suggests, sports massage is often used to treat people engaged in sport. It is quite reasonable for sports people to seek various types of soft tissue therapy pre and post event. Many sports people will also find maintenance treatments between training sessions or competitions beneficial. Pre-event sports massage is vigorous, with the aim of warming muscles and underlying structures before the event. Massage performed in this way can have physiological effects and can also produce significant psychological benefits. Athletes can gain performance benefits when sports massage is part of their usual routine. Post-event massage is somewhat different to pre-event massage and has an entirely different aim. Post-event massage is more slow and rhythmic in fashion. Exercise usually creates micro-trauma to tissues, which is part of the natural adaptation process (see adaptation article). Post-event massage aims to soothe and relax tired soft tissue structures and avoid generating more micro-trauma. Sports Massage techniques are frequently used in conjunction with more Advanced Remedial Massage techniques.
Our principal Musculoskeletal therapist (Terry) has been treating musculoskeletal-related conditions since 2006 and all walks of life including, children, the elderly, office workers, emergency service personnel, military personnel and both amateur and elite level athletes. Athletes have included, rowers, gymnasts, triathletes, runners, ballet dancers, horse dressage competitors, cross fit competitors, swimmers, cyclists, elite-serving and ex-service military personnel and many other disciplines. He has developed a specific interest in the treatment of sports injuries, due to a combination of his previous time within the UK's elite armed services and his additional training in advanced soft-tissue therapies. Furthermore, Terry has signed up for the Sports Massage Association (SMA) Road2Success Athlete Sponsorship Programme. The programme is designed to help our future Olympic Athletes, who currently lack sponsorship or funding. Therapists who have signed up offer special discounted treatment rates to Athletes who meet the eligibility criteria. Please see the Sports Massage Association (SMA) link on the page for further details.
Massage and Myotherapy Registrations
Terry brings over 15 years of experience working in the MSK Therapy field back to Brisbane from the UK. He is highly qualified with training and experience covering many assessment methods, treatment types and soft tissue therapy (STT) skills. Terry's sporting activities, experiences and interests have naturally led to him specialising in the treatment of trauma and myofascial pain relief. He also taught as a senior course coach over seven years ago on one of the first myotherapy courses in Brisbane. His skills are now available at the Morningside clinic, where he works as a Myotherapist.