Sports massage is a special type of massage therapy which is designed for athletes. It often integrates a variety of techniques from various schools of massage, and many athletes use sports massage as a regular tool to help keep their bodies in balance. Some therapists specialize in sports massage, while others supplement other massage work with sports massage; several massage schools offer certification in sports massage for therapists who want to concentrate on this particular style of massage.
The body of an athlete faces several unique challenges which average individuals do not deal with. Many athletes are often tense and sore due to heavy training and competition work. They also push their bodies to the limit as they train. Some athletes have chosen to sacrifice flexibility for brute strength, which can be a problem later in life. Sports massage addresses all of these issues, and it can be used on a regular basis to keep an athlete's body in shape, or therapeutically, for specific conditions.
For high-end athletes, massage is commonly accepted as part of the regimen which the athlete uses to keep in shape. Sports massage eases sore muscles, stretches tight muscles and tendons to keep them flexible and strong, and relaxes the athlete so that he or she stays emotionally as well as physically healthy. Sports massage can also be used to address the results of strain; runners, for example, might receive sports massage which focuses specifically on their feet and legs.
A well qualified sports massage practitioner is familiar with the specific training techniques and physical demands of a wide assortment of sports. He or she is also familiar with the body mechanics of sports, and with the lifestyle modifications which athletes have to make to be successful. He or she tries to increase an athlete's endurance and flexibility while promoting strength and mental balance. Sports massage can be used before and after events, during training, and during rest or rehabilitation periods.
If you are seeking sports massage, you may want to ask the local gym if they have a massage therapist on staff. You can also check with spas which specialize in massage, or with a trade organization which certifies therapists for sports massage. Make sure to ask about a massage therapist's qualifications before you work with him or her; a well qualified therapist will be happy to talk about where he or she trained. As with any massage, drink lots of water before and after the massage, and don't be afraid to tell the therapist to adjust his or her technique to suit your needs.
Therapists who want to offer sports massage should strongly consider attending a sports massage course. While it is possible to read about sports massage techniques and attend demonstrations, a class is a great opportunity to meet professionals in the field and garner tips and techniques. Also, class certifications are valuable professional tools for a massage therapist.