Sports Massage & Recovery Time

What’s your sport?


1. What is Sports Massage?

Sports Massage – Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. It’s more vigorous than a Swedish Massage.

The purpose of sports massage therapy is to help alleviate the stress and tension which builds up in the body’s soft tissues during physical activity. Where minor injuries and lesions occur, due to overexertion and/or overuse, massage can break them down quickly and effectively. Above all, it can help prevent those bothersome injuries that so often get in the way of performance and your athletic goals, whether one is an athlete,  or a once a week jogger.

This treatment is not just for the sports person: anyone can benefit from sports massage, including people in physically demanding jobs and those not quite so obvious (occupational, emotional, and postural stress may produce many similar characteristics to sports injuries).

Sports massage tends to be deeper and more intense. It is based on the various elements of Swedish massage and often incorporates a combination of other techniques involving stretching, compression, friction, toning, and trigger point response techniques similar to Acupressure and Shiatsu. A skilled therapist brings together this blend of techniques, knowledge, and advice during treatment, to work effectively with the client to bring about optimum performance and to provide injury-free training, and minimize post-event injuries.

Sports Massage is best administered 1 /1/2 hours before your event or 1 1/2 hours after your event.

1) Why should you get a sports massage? Prevention and recovery from injury!

Elite athletes have benefited from massage for many years. Club athletes are now beginning to realize that they too can benefit from massage.

There is one reason why it is vitally important that all athletes get a regular massage:

Sports Massage Improves Performance

After a good massage, you will feel lighter, more powerful, more flexible, and those little aches and pains you thought were normal will be gone. Massage reduces the likelihood of injuries, so you can keep going despite the rain!

a) Prevention

How long do you spend talking or thinking about those aches, pains, and full-blown injuries?

How much time do you spend preventing those aches from becoming injuries that will stop your from training?

A good masseur will be able to prevent injury in a number of different ways.

The masseur can identify if you are training correctly. If, for example, you are running on the camber of a road too much this will show itself to a masseur by the imbalance and tilt of your pelvis and associated muscles. The masseur will then be able to release the areas of tension that would otherwise develop into an injury and give you training advice.

The masseur will also be able to identify the areas we all have that are naturally tight or weak that could lead to an injury. The massage will enable tight areas to be loosened and the areas to be strengthened. This will allow the body to become balanced and therefore less likely to become injured.

One small note of caution is that there are a few situations where massage may do more harm than good. However, this should not be for the athlete to worry about as any qualified massage therapist will know when they cannot help and you should be referred to another health professional.

Some injuries are brought about by overuse of a particular muscle. Overuse injuries often result in sore, painful, and inflamed muscles. Massage will reduce the likelihood of the muscle becoming overused in the first place. Massage will reduce the initial inflammation that leads to an overuse injury. Massage will straighten out muscles from the mess that is often left after training thus allowing the otherwise overused muscles to work productively.

b) Recovery / Recovery Time

The running high is legendary but more powerful is the running low. Often the cause of this running low is injury. Not being able to train can make you feel depressed, lethargic, and ultimately puts you back a stage.

The best thing about being injured is that you realize the importance of being healthy!

Massage will increase the speed at which you recover and, as stated earlier, will reduce the likelihood of any re-occurrence of the injury.

Massage is most effective at treating soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains and repetitive stress injury, etc.

All injuries will result in scar tissue. Scar tissue results from a tear to a usually straight (think uncooked spaghetti) and effective muscle fiber. When the muscle tissue rebuilds itself it rebuilds in a mess of fibers (think cooked spaghetti). These fibers are strong but are not effective for movement and it becomes more likely that the fibers around the injured mess will become strained and more likely to become injured in the future. Massage will straighten this mess of fibers to allow the fibers to rebuild in a straight line again. The result will be that you are back to normal functioning and it is less likely to have another tear.

Of course, massage has its limitations. If you break your leg a massage will not help the bone mend. However, as soon as you are out of plaster massage will reduce the scar tissue that was created when you broke your leg. So with the help of a masseur, you will be running sooner.

2) What should you expect from a massage?

The hardest part of a massage is walking through the door! If it is your first massage then you are probably nervous and apprehensive as to what you are putting yourself in for.

Some things to expect:

The initial consultation should be medical in format. The masseur will ask you questions and will take notes. The questions will be to do with your past medical history, the nature of the injury, and questions relating to your training and competition. Expect to have to demonstrate actions you are/are not able to perform (especially when going for a massage when injured).

Will it hurt? There are stories that a good massage is a painful massage. This is not true. A good masseur will always start off easily so you can get used to the feeling of a massage. The masseur may eventually need to work deeply into the tissues and this can cause pain. Deep massage should only cause good, almost nice, and certainly manageable pain only. If at any time you feel uncomfortable the masseur will happily alter the treatment. There are plenty of techniques that are not painful but very effective.

Expect to undress to your underwear, sheets will be provided for warmth and  any embarrassment

3) How often should I get a massage?

It depends! The more you train the more often a massage is needed.

As a rough guide, I will see an athlete who trains two or three times a week a minimum of once a month.

Many top athletes will get massages two or three times a week – although in the general course of events a weekly massage should be perfectly adequate for most runners without significant injury problems.

It is not advisable to have your first ever massage just before a competition. People respond to massage in different ways and it is best to discover how it will best work for you during a training period.

If an injury occurs the number of massages will increase until the injury is no longer an issue. It is impossible to state accurately exactly how long an injury will take to recover. Some athletes or some injuries will recovery or respond better to a course of massage treatment than others.

A  masseurs’ aim will be to get you back to a state of health. A good masseur will want to get back to the job of sustaining the healthy rather than dealing with the unhealthy injured athlete.

4) Self-help for injuries

If you are unfortunate enough to get injured then get it checked by a professional.

If you think it is a strain or sprain then remember RICE then MICE.

In the 24 hours following an injury you should:

R – REST. Complete rest, if you injure your right knee, keep off it (don’t keep trying it to see if it still hurts, you’ll do further damage)

I – ICE. Ice the affected areas, until it starts to go pink then take the ice off Ice the affected areas, until it starts to go pink then take the ice off.

C – COMPRESSION. Firmly bandage the area to reduce swelling

E – ELEVATION – using sling or footstool, get the injury above the heart

After the 24 hour period you should consult with a professional who may ask you to replace the R (rest) with M, hence MICE.

5) Self-massage

Masseurs are generally very pleased to offer advice on self-massage and it can be a valuable tool to ward off injury until your next massage.

However, there is a reason why masseurs are able to stay in business!

Unless you are a fully trained and experienced masseur you will have limited muscles accessible to you due to your own limited palpation and anatomical skills.

Self-massage will have limited pressure; therefore you will not be able to target the deeper muscle fibers. You are likely to be targeting the incorrect muscles anyway.

There is only so much the internet will teach you!

7) Final Considerations and Money

Unfortunately massage costs. Many masseurs will have a discount scheme. But you might like to consider this:

Every X miles you probably give your car service. If your car starts to underperform, rattle, or have a lower top speed, you are likely to pop into the local garage. As the result, you spend more money on your car than you do on yourself!

Can you afford not to get a massage? Without it you will train in pain, you will get more injuries, you will take longer to recover, you will always be in danger of re-injury and you may never reach your potential.

PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT
PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT

*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.