If you’ve experienced a massage at a spa, you’ve hopefully enjoyed a relaxing, luxurious experience. Sign up for a sports massage, and that’s not what you should expect. Truth be told, a sports massage is likely to be a bit uncomfortable. That’s okay! Remember that these are functional massages that are intended to help your athletic performance and recovery.
Still, it’s good to be prepared. If you’ve never had a sports massage, keep reading. We’ve got all of the details you need.
Types: The Four Different Categories of Sports Massage
- Pre-Event Massage: This is a massage that is given just before an athletic event. The massage therapist focuses on the parts of your body that will be used the most during the event. These massages are intended to stimulate your body in advance to help you perform better at the sports that you do.
- Post-Event Massage: This is a massage that an athlete would receive within two hours of completing a sporting event. The purpose of a post event massage is to help with recovery, and bring your muscles back to a normal state.
- Restorative Massage: If you are in training, restorative massage can be used to enhance performance and prevent injury. Typically, athletes receive these at regular intervals throughout their training efforts.
- Rehabilitative Massage: If you have been injured, rehabilitative massage can help you to heal more efficiently, and reduce pain and stiffness.
Sport Massage Prep: Eat Light And Stay Hydrated
If you aren’t well-hydrated, your muscles can be stiffer than normal. The same is true for your fascia. That can lead to a massage that’s more painful than it needs to be. Make sure you’ve had enough water to be adequately hydrated.
You should also save any heavy eating until after your massage. This is simply because eating a large amount of food, then lying face down on a table, is bound to be uncomfortable.
Finally, prepare to be an active participant. You won’t be able to nap or ‘zone out’. Your massage therapist may ask you to move your body in specific ways, and they will likely send you home with a list of exercises to help you stay on track.
What to Wear to a Sports Massage
For a Sports Massage it’s best if you can undress leaving on your lower underwear. You will be left in private to do this and once you are ready you lie on the table where you can then cover yourself completely with a large sheet.
Your privacy and well-being is extremely important to us and you will remain covered throughout with the therapist respectfully uncovering whatever area they are massaging, Private areas of the body will never be exposed or massaged.
Know Your Body And Talk to Your Sports Massage Therapist
Arrive at your appointment ready to share information with your sports massager. They should know the types of sports you play, the intensity, and your level of expertise. You should also disclose previous injuries and surgeries, any trouble areas, and your performance goals.
Your therapist will do a pre-assessment before your massage. They’ll ask many questions about the sort of athlete you are and where you want to be. Answer these honestly. Most will also do a physical assessment of your posture, movement, and any areas where you are having pain. All of this is done to ensure you get the best results.
Common Sports Massage Techniques And What They Do
If you get a sports massage, you won’t receive traditional trigger point massage, shiatsu, Swedish massage, or hot stone massage. Instead, you’ll receive a very goal-oriented massage using advanced techniques you may not have experienced before, likely to be a deep tissue massage. These include:
- Myofascial Release: This involves applying gentle and consistent pressure to myofascial connective soft tissue. It improves range of motion, and helps to eliminate pain.
- Neuromuscular Techniques: Trigger points are sensitive areas in the muscle caused by excessive strain. Neuromuscular techniques are used by therapists to fix these.
- Stretching: Your therapist may engage in something called passive stretch massage. It improves flexibility and mobility. It increases circulation through the fascia, and it helps to lengthen compressed muscle fibers.
- Standard Massage Techniques: Many sports massage therapists will use standard massage techniques such as acupressure alongside deep tissue massage. The difference is in the intensity of these techniques, and the focal points of pressure in the treatment.
Your Therapist is a Healthcare Professional But Not a Doctor
It is likely that your therapist has been trained in a sports massage course that have learned sports massage therapy holistically and understand that there are boundaries to the work as well. A good massage therapist wants to work in concert with your doctor to help you get the best outcomes. If you have an injury or are in significant pain, you should go to your doctor first for a diagnosis and medical treatment. Only then should you approach a massage therapist. Once they are aware of your condition, and your doctor’s instructions, they can help you incorporate massage into your recovery and treat the muscle in the way that it should be.
Likewise, if you have pain that continues to impede your ability to perform after you have seen a massage therapist, consult your physician. There may be an injury that requires medical care. Be very wary of any therapist who attempts to steer you away from seeking the advice of a doctor.
Should You Get a Sports Massage Before a Game or Race?
It depends. If you are experienced with the massage technique, and have gotten good running results, you could very well get good results with a real deep tissue massage alongside your training. On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is try a new massage technique just days before you need to be at your best. It would be a bit like trying a new pre workout shake or brand new shoes without testing them out.
Does Sports Massage Hurt?
The short answer is yes. This isn’t a spa massage. Your therapist will massage deep, manipulate your muscles, and apply pressure to the connective tissue. Chances are it will hurt during the procedure and after there may be some pain.
If the pain becomes unbearable or you notice particular areas of pain that are especially bad, tell your massage therapist. They may be able to make adjustments to help.
Final Thoughts: What Should I do After a Sports Massage?
When your massage therapy session is finished, there are some things you can do to feel better, and retain the benefits of your treatment. First, drink plenty of water. The science isn’t settled, but some people believe that massage releases toxins that need to be flushed away. In any case, staying hydrated will certainly help you feel better in other ways.
Finally, get some rest. Unless your massage was specifically for pre event purposes, you should avoid exertion for the next 24 hours to ensure you are at your athletic best.