Sports massage is a form of deep tissue massage that is mostly focussed on alleviating the stress and tension which builds up in the body’s soft tissues. It works by breaking down muscular adhesions brought about by physical activity.
Muscle adhesions, also known as ‘knots’, occur where there is a greater demand or stress on particular parts of the muscle. During exercise, minor injuries and lesions (tears) occur, due to overexertion and/or overuse. The body then heals, producing stronger and additional muscle fibres. It is during this healing process that the fibres can ‘glue’ together forming a tight bundle. I often describe this as being similar to when cooking spaghetti and the strands clump together! This leads to an in-efficient muscle as the individual fibres are unable to fully contract or stretch. Furthermore, blood flow to the area becomes restricted, reducing oxygen and nutrient delivery and removal of waste products.
The aim of post-event massage is RECOVERY and geared towards reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with rigorous exercise. The massage usually takes place 0-24 hours after the event. However, a light recovery sports massage lasting 10-20mins immediately after a race is very helpful in removing metabolic waste. The pressures applied are modified to provide a soothing effleurage – the pace is slow, rhythmical and gentle. Avoid any deep tissue massage as it could actually be more damaging than beneficial as the muscle will be in a highly stressed state.
The Good Stuff
- Flush away waste products that build up during exercise i.e. lactic acid through the promotion of blood and lymphatic flow.
- Fresh oxygen and nutrients are also brought into the muscle which are vital for repair and replenishing.
- Reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) therefore allowing for a quicker return to training.
- Relaxation. Massage is a wonderful way to relax after an event and gives you time to mentally recover as well as helping to return the muscles to a relaxed state. In addition, massage is an excellent way to improve mood, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and increase the feel good chemicals i.e. dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins.
- Help an athlete with their cool down routine, this is especially good after an event when an athlete is often too tired to cool down properly.
- Post event massage can also be that first assessment for potential injuries and more serious medical conditions (heat exhaustion, hypothermia) which may be identified early and treated promptly.
To optimise full recovery recommended things to do post massage:
- Foam Rolling (check out our channel on YouTube to see how it’s done)
- Self-massage with a hard ball (hockey, cricket or specialised trigger point balls)
- Light exercise – active recovery
- Heat – especially now it’s approaching winter. Keep your muscles warm by adding layers and/or wearing compression clothing