What is it?
Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue to benefit a person engaging in regular physical activity (Paine 2015). Soft tissue is connective tissue that has not hardened into bone and cartilage and includes structures such as; skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems or imbalances within the soft tissue that are caused through repetitive or strenuous activity or trauma (Paine 2015).
Strokes and why to use them
There are a few subgroups when it comes to the varying strokes and techniques used within sports massage. For this blog we are going to discus 3 different strokes that are commonly used; Effleurage, Petrissage and Tapotement (Brummitt 2008; Sports 2005).
This technique is one of the more frequently used strokes in sports massage. It is commonly performed along the length of the muscle, typically distal to proximal (bottom to top) following the lymph and venous flow. Initially, the therapist will start with a light pressure to prepare the client for a deeper pressure later in the session (petrissage). Strokes are performed long & slowly in order to flush out toxins and relax the surrounding area. Here, we aim to relax the client, warm up the soft tissue, assist circulation & tissue drainage, stretch the fascia and soothe painful areas (Sports 2005).
These techniques include kneading, wringing, rolling and picking up. Here, the goal is to lift the tissue up and away from underlying structures through oscillations and pressure. Petrissage can have both a stimulating or relaxing effect on muscles depending on the pressure and speed it is delivered. A deeper pressure can be applied to where the client can tolerate if needed, so these are commonly used within a treatment session to spark a healing response as well as, remove metabolic waste, improve circulation, reduce muscle soreness, decrease localised swelling and loosen adhesions (Sports 2005).
Cupping, pounding and hacking are all strokes used within tapotement. Repetitive light striking movements to the skin with a cupped hand are how these techniques are performed. Tapotement is mostly used before a sporting event to energise the muscle tissue and stimulate a response to activation/movement (Sports 2005).
When to have it and when not to have it...
A sports massage can be hugely beneficial (as listed below) but also the time in which you plan to have it can also be very impactful. Your therapist should advice you as to the best time to have a sports massage based on your personal goals and schedule but the general rule of thumb is…
Effleurage strokes are fine to elicit at any given point. Their relaxing and light nature shouldn’t affect upcoming sporting events or day to day activities.
Petrissage is a great way to apply deeper pressure to the muscles, however, with this added pressure sparks a slight damage to the muscle, in order for healing to take place and for the area to get better. Therefore, petrissage is NOT advised right before a sporting event but more so 3-5 days before or after performance/training is scheduled or completed. This will allow enough time for the body to improve from treatment and better yet, not hinder performance.
Tapotement is widely used before activities/events. It is this technique that enables the muscles to become stimulated and increase the activity responses in the area to better prepare for the task in hand. Pre-race/event/competition will see athletes and competitors receiving this type of treatment in preparation for success.
Increase blood flow
Reduced muscle tension
Improvements in mood
Increased range of movement
Reduced passive & active stiffness
Increased/decreased nervous excitability (depending on the task in hand)
Increased muscle working capacity
Improved heart rate
Reduced blood resistance in arteries
Increased venous outflow
Slowed respiratory rate
Physical activity preparation
Choroszewicz, Dobosiewicz and Badiuk (2020).
With the hope of being able to return to full services from the 12th April, Injury Recovery Centre provide a great sports massage package that can be purchased within clinic. After reading this blog and learning more about sports massage, the package offers a real benefit for those who what to look after themselves a bit more, are training more so now than ever or for those hopeful to participate in some competitions soon! Please find out package details below;
Thank you for taking the time to read my latest blog. If you’ve found this interesting and would like to know more about sports massage or even get yourself booked in please do not hesitate to get in touch.
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST
MSc Strength and Conditioning
Brummitt, J. (2008), ‘The role of massage in sports performance and rehabilitation: current evidence and furture direction’, North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 3(1), 7.
Choroszewicz, P, Dobosiewicz, A. M and Badiuk, N. (2020), ‘Sports massage as a method od preventing delayed onset muscle soreness’, Pedagogy and Psychology of sport, 6(2), 104-112.
Paine, T. (2015), The Complete Guide to Sports Massage, Bloomsbury Publishing: UK.
Sports, J. (2005), ‘Sports massage a comprehensive review’, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 45, 370-380.