Sports Massage for the Active Person

Sports Massage for the Active Person


Our resident Sports Massage Therapist, Anna Wright, answers your questions and more!


Why do we require massage and what benefits will you get from a Sports Massage?

Professional athletes have regular sports massage as they strive to improve their performance. This is for a number of reasons:

  • To reduce risk of injury by breaking down adhesions
  • To maintain flexibility
  • To flush out waste products of heavy exercise
  • To decrease localised swelling if an injury has occurred

Massage will help in reducing scar tissue and speed up recovery time.
Shoulder-Pain-1024x682The physical & brutal collisions in sport mean injuries are inevitable. If we think specifically about rugby; all the tackling, rucking and scrumming, hitting the ground and smashing into one another lead players to become injured. Injury can also happen in other activities that involve running and jumping and lifting and carrying, and overuse injuries are all common in all physical activities.

Muscular and soft tissue injuries are most common.

When an injury occurs, players want to regain their strength and flexibility as soon as possible.

The repairing of damaged muscle tissue results in scarring. Scar tissue is fibrous and bulky tissue, which is so tough that it can be as hard as bone. If this area around the injured site continues has reduced flexibility it may affect the player’s function as that area will demonstrate limited range. The muscles and tissues will not be able to glide next to each other as smoothly as they should, as the scar tissue will cause them to fuse together.

What does this mean for our active person?

The result of scarring may mean a loss of Power, Strength, Flexibility and a risk of further injury in the same area.

Without treatment, the tissue in the injured site may never be as strong. Untreated scar tissue can be a common cause of re-injury, often weeks after it is thought that total recovery was achieved.

bristol-physio-service-sports-massageDeep tissue massage techniques will break down these tough fibrous tissues, and if achieved in a timely manner after the injury, it can stop these cells binding and causing adhesions. Certain techniques are used to break down fibrous tissue into smaller particles and remove the unwanted waste products through the lymphatic system. This system is a vital mechanism of clearing the body of toxins and waste products.

Can massage increase general circulation?

Massage helps pump blood and lymph around the body. If the fluid is pumped in an upward direction towards the heart, the force of this movement creates a suction space behind it that is immediately filled with fresh oxygenated, nutrient rich blood. This oxygenated blood is full of the ingredients that we need for growth and recovery.

Massage can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and prevent injury.

After a tough match or training session when the muscles have been worked hard, a pain message is sent to your brain telling you that your muscles are sore and painful. This is due to the byproduct heavy exercise called lactic acid. Massage soon after exercising can help to remove this acid and other waste products.bristolphysio-home-banner-03

A massage therapist can help to identify where more attention is needed in an individual’s training program.

Massage therapists are trained to recognise tightness in certain muscles, therefore advise can be given on stretching those areas. They can also identify micro-trauma from over-training (training above the bodies capacity to cope with load) and in this case, recovery strategies can be discussed. Overall these skills will help to avoid future injuries.

Often when we are experiencing pain due to ‘tight muscles’ it is due to weakness and over working of those muscles. Function will be affected in a bid to avoid further pain but this may result in further injury to another part of the body. Massage will help stimulate muscles and then exercises can be given to build strength where needed to allow the body to work better as one unit.

Massage can instantly make someone feel relaxed and improve sleep.

The feeling of relaxation reduces stress and anxiety. KnotsBy releasing tension in the soft tissues then balance can be reinstated to the body, this can improve many conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines, stress, and anxiety, and it can also improve sleep. More sleep means better recovery as when we sleep growth hormones are released allowing the body to fix itself.


Should you feel any of the advice above will be relevant to you, please contact Bristol Physio and we will arrange an appointment with Anna so you can help your overall recovery.

Bristol Physio Working With Local Schools

School sport update from September to December 2016

2-andy physio - 20151028 -2015_10_28_9999_652Bristol Physio is extremely proud to be associated with a number of local schools where we’re managing their sports injuries at the weekend, primarily on the rugby field. This requires all our staff to be trained in Sports Trauma Management as well as their other physiotherapy qualifications. Our role involves the treatment of minor niggles, strains and sprains using physiotherapy techniques and to provide medical support for more serious injuries.

All our staff are fully trained on concussion management. In under 19s, concussion management is very precise and is taken very seriously. At Bristol Physio we have designed our own Concussion Protocol based on the latest findings from the Sports Concussion Consensus (2012) and the RFU Guidelines. This is the most up-to-date researched based findings on how to deal with concussion in sport and is the basis that all governing bodies around the world are using for their concussion management. Should you wish to see a copy of this protocol please email

We are pleased to announce that all our schools have achieved great results this term.

BGS Brand CMYK NEW COLOURS TEST 2 coatedBristol Grammar School.

The 1st XV Rugby Team managed a great season this year with significant wins over many local rivals. The highlight of the season probably remains their tour of New Zealand in the summer, however extremely close results against Colston’s and Clifton College should highlight the improvement in their performance this term. They unfortunately lost to Blundell’s in the Natwest Trophy having beaten Sherbourne in the previous rounds.

Queen Elizabeth’s Hospitalqeh_logo_negative

For the first season ever, Bristol Physio were helping QEH teams at Failand. The rugby was hotly contested and whilst the 1st XV may have had a developing side, there were some great results throughout the school.   The U15s were flying the flag for the school with impressive over KES Bath and Beechen Cliff School.

Prior Park Collegebp-partnership-prior-park-schools

In the second season at Prior, we were very impressed with an emerging 1st XV that clearly had made great strides forward. The team consists of a number of Lower 6th players, who showed great potential coming into the 7s series; wins over Kings College, Taunton and Kings School Bruton were some of the highlights of the term.

Looking forward, all three schools will now enter into the 7’s season. All age groups will be participating in tournaments throughout the South West culminating with the Rosslyn Park 7s at the end of March.

Bristol Physio will continue to provide our services throughout next term to all hockey, football, netball and rugby teams at all three locations.

Please remember that all students, parents and staff from the schools are eligible for discounted treatment and services at Bristol Physio. Just click here to contact us.

Foam Rolling – why the pain???

Introduction to Foam Rolling

By Susie Burnessbristol-physio-team-susie-burness

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a method of self myofascial release using a cylindrical foam roller. It is an inexpensive and convenient adjunct to help with the maintenance of mobility and healthy muscle tissue. Foam rollers themselves can vary in size and texture but all do a similar job, though you can be more specific with some of the more textured rollers. They can be found in most gyms but are a useful and compact piece of equipment to have in your home.

foam-rollingWhat are the benefits?

A foam roller uses similar principles to that of massage through physical manipulation of the tissue to help release knots and reduce muscular tension. However, instead of a therapist applying the pressure, you use your own body weight to affect the area of the muscle you are rolling. You can alter your position on the roller to target specific areas of the muscle whilst rolling back and forth.

By doing this there is an increase in blood flow and lymph to the muscles which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients. This increased blood flow brings with it many benefits:

  • Increased muscle flexibility
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Decreased recovery time
  • Decreased risk of injuries
  • Improved Posture

Foam rolling cannot completely replace the skill and accuracy of a massage therapist but can help to reduce the amount of time (and money!) you may need to spend seeing one.

Decreasing Recovery Time

For those frequent gym attendees you may be acquainted with that delayed stiff and achy feeling in your muscles that builds up a day or two post workout. It tends to occur after a particularly hard session or, more commonly after integrating a new exercise into your regime. This is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). It not only limits our ability to exercise but can interfere with daily tasks. (I’ve definitely struggled up and down the stairs after a hard session).

The soreness felt is secondary to micro-tears in the muscle fibers followed by an inflammatory response and chemical reaction. It can cause discomfort and stiffness for up to a week unless treated with massage therapy or a foam roller. The increased blood flow provided through rolling, can help remove waste products from the tissues, helping your muscles to move more easily again and therefore can decrease your recovery time.

When our muscles become more pliable we in turn increase our flexibility which can help with decreasing our risk of injury.

Improving Posture

Wrong Sitting Posture

Many of us spend long hours in the day sitting in front of screens, (or we may be on our feet for work, but get home to wind down by slumping for several hours on the sofa). It’s very easy to lose your postural awareness and before you know it you’ve slouched over your screen for hours at a time.

Over time these repeated positions can cause respective lengthening and shortening of certain muscle groups resulting in a deviation of our posture from our optimal mechanical position.

For example, in slouching at our desks with our chins poking forwards and our shoulders and upper back rounded, the pecs muscles in our chests tighten and the rhomboids and trapezius in our upper back lengthen. Long periods of sitting also tend to tighten our hip flexors and hamstrings.

Using a foam roller to lengthen the shortened muscle groups can help to oppose these daily dysfunctional positions and therefore improve our posture.

How does it work?


The exact process behind foam rolling is still up for debate, but it is evidenced by its affects.

By releasing “knots” or “trigger points”

Knots or trigger points are hyper-irritable points in the muscle or fascia surrounding it. You can palpate them as nodules in tight bands of muscle. Trigger points are characterised by a referral pattern where by pain can be felt (but not always) at a point further away. For example, some headaches can be caused by tight muscles in the neck due to referral from these muscles.

Trigger points are differentiated from muscle spasm as they only occur in a small part of the muscle, whereas muscle spasm will involve tightness in the whole muscle.

They can occur as a result of injury, excessive or unusual exercise or following persistent overload of the muscle i.e. those used to maintain posture due to poor sitting or working habits. Repetitive tasks at work or home can also be a cause.

These trigger points can be released using the foam roller to pressure them. In smaller areas such as the neck, more benefit may be gained by using a massage ball. 

By manipulating the fascia

Fascia is a continuous network of connective tissue that envelopes and separates our muscles, bones and organs in one long connected structure. In order for fascia to function correctly it needs to be able to glide smoothly over the tissues that it surrounds. Through excessive postural or mechanical stress the fascia can get stuck and adhere to itself or other tissues.

When foam rolling, we also affect the fascia and can release these adhesions, allowing it to glide freely again.

When and how to use it?


How and for how long?

If using for general maintenance each muscle (or muscle group – i.e. the quadriceps) should be rolled for up to 2 minutes. So the total time for rolling will depend on muscles you are focusing on for the session.

For example, for runners, the calf, quadriceps and hamstrings are key muscle groups to roll. Office workers may find they benefit from rolling their spinal muscles and hip flexors as these muscles are frequently affected by hours of sitting.

Gently rolling back and forth to increase circulation prior to focusing in on more specifically tight sections will warm the muscle up first. As a general rule for long muscles – i.e. quadriceps, hamstrings or calf it’s good to start at one end and roll upwards towards your body.

It’s important to ensure you focus more on the tight and tender spots in the muscles you are rolling. Roll more slowly and hold at these points until the pain dissipates for maximal benefit. This will help your treatment to be more specific. Ensure you breathe normally and try to relax the muscle you are working on as much as you can.

Listen to how your body feels – you will gain nothing from pressing too firmly and can even cause more pain and tightness if you’re too firm or if you spend too long on a painful point. If you have a specific injury, don’t roll it directly, instead try to influence the muscles around that may be tight. You can offload particularly tight or tender areas by putting more weight through your supporting arms or legs. You may also find placing a towel over the roll will make it more comfortable in the first instance.


Rolling can be beneficial both pre and post training. Prior, it increases the circulation to the muscles, helping the body to warm up and prepare for physical activity and post it can help to remove the waste products of exercise aiding recovery.

In the same way as you may have a post event massage – it should be done gently as its primary focus is not muscle release but its main aim is relaxation and recovery.

Fitting a quick 10 minutes after work whilst you wind down in front of the TV may also be useful to release tension from the day and aid your sleep.

In terms of rolling for the specific release of muscles, time this on days you are not training heavily, it may be worth fitting 5-10 minutes several times a week to release tightness and help optimise your recovery.

If you feel as though even with a large amount of foam rolling you are unable to change your tightness or soreness then it would be best to contact us and see one of our experienced therapists to get a definitive diagnosis on the problem.  Occasionally you may not find any change with the rolling therefore the need for a proper diagnosis for the cause of the pain should be explored.  

Happy Rolling!