Sports massage therapy is the treatment of athletes through the manipulation of muscles and other tissues, and is designed to care for hard working muscles before and after strenuous physical activity. This type of massage can be conducted both before and after a workout or event. Sports massage therapy is also used to treat sports-related injuries.
Strenuous physical activity can have many adverse effects on the body's muscles. These muscles often become tight and inelastic. Lactic acid and other waste products can build up in the muscles, causing soreness. While sports massage therapy can help any physically active individual recover from an intense workout, this therapy has the greatest benefit for athletes who must regularly push the limits of their bodies.
When regular sports massage therapy is incorporated into an athlete's training, the individual will often experience increased overall performance. Sports massage can increase flexibility and range of motion. Recovery time between workouts is often dramatically decreased, and sore, painful muscles are less of a problem. The likelihood of injuries is decreased by regular pre-event and post-event sports massage therapy.
Pre-event sports massage focuses on preparing the muscles for a hard workout. This is often provided to professional athletes before a game. This type of massage uses brisk, rapid movements to help warm up the muscles. During a pre-event massage, athletes often focus on the upcoming event, visualizing themselves at peak performance.
Post-event sports massage helps to speed recovery time and keep athletes in peak physical condition. As the massage therapist pumps the muscles and performs deep massage, blood flow is increased, allowing oxygen and nutrients to reenter the muscles as quickly as possible. Muscles can also be stretched to decrease tension buildup and increase elasticity.
In the event of an injury, sports massage therapy can play an important role in speeding the patient's recovery time. Sports massage can break down scar tissue and reduce pain. Massage therapy increases the body's endorphin levels, creating a sensation of relaxation and healing for the patient. Though serious injuries may also require physical therapy or even surgery, massage is a very useful tool which can help the healing process along.
Massage therapists at many spas or privately-owned practices can provide sports massage therapy. Sports massage techniques typically include deep Swedish massage, compression massage, and cross-fiber massage. Sports massage therapists can also be found at sports medicine clinics, health clubs, and exercise facilities. Professional sports teams typically employ their own sports massage therapists to treat the players on a regular basis.