World-class athletes such as professional sports stars and Olympians require very specialized care to obtain and maintain optimum performance. Their therapists need to know how to read their bodies and quickly “see” dysfunction so they can create an effective treatment plan that may include: rest, stretching, taping, hydrotherapy, and any number of other tools readily available to trainers at that level. Therapists wanting to work in this realm of the sports massage field need to invest their time and money taking highly advanced and specialized training that meets their clients' needs.
But, what about the everyday athlete? You know, that mom who is running a half marathon to see if she can, or the daughter doing the Susan G. Komen walk in memory of her mom or the dad who plays softball on Thursday nights. Don’t they need some specialized care as well? Wouldn’t it be nice if their therapist knew enough about sports massage intent to serve them better? I think so!
It isn’t that difficult to integrate your existing moves into a customized pre, post, or maintenance massage to aid your sporty clients. To be clear, I am not saying you should advertise a session as a Sports Massage if you don’t have some level of sports massage specific training. I am saying you can adjust the type of massage movements, tempo, and direction to serve better and support clients to meet their athletic goals.
You can enhance this intent by incorporating essential oils such as Rosemary. When applied topically, Rosemary may improve local blood circulation and alleviate pain and have antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities. Rosemary oil also stimulates mental activity, clears the mind, and aids memory. It has been found to reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, in saliva and is believed to help prevent mental exhaustion and stress.
There are three basic massage scenarios for clients participating in sports activities: pre-event massage, post-event massage, and maintenance massage.
Pre-event massage intends to stimulate the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles, reduce muscle tension, loosen the muscles, and produce a feeling of psychological readiness. Massage strokes are applied proximal to distal with a quick tempo. Use brisk effleurage to stimulate and warm the muscles and petrissage to help muscles move fluidly and reduce muscle tension. Deep tissue or trigger point work could be counterproductive for someone who will participate in sporting activities in the following 48 hours as the body may not have time to integrate any changes that occur. Keep conversation positive and encouraging. Your job is to pump the client up with a “you will do great!” attitude.
Post-event massage intends to reduce swelling caused by microtraumas; reduce stiffness and maintain flexibility; encourage the removal of lactic acid and waste build-up, and reduce cramping. Massage strokes are applied distal to proximal, superficial to deep. Light and gentle strokes are used so as not to damage already stressed muscles. Use light effleurage to decrease swelling and petrissage to help clear away toxins and relieve tense, stiff muscles. Also, post-event massage may help reduce recovery time and alleviate muscle strain and soreness.
Maintenance Sports Massage
Maintenance massage intends to prevent the development of injuries, maintain healthy muscle function, and improve performance. Selection of appropriate massage techniques is applied as needed as a regular part of the client’s training protocol. Deep effleurage and petrissage can be used to relax and release knotted muscles. Maintenance massage helps keep the tissues loose so that different muscle layers can move easily over each other, reduce the development of scar tissue, and increase flexibility and range of motion.
Working with a basic understanding and intent, any therapist can help clients prevent injuries, prepare for athletic activity and maintain a healthy physical condition. Therapists can also help clients recover from workouts and simple injuries.