If you are an athlete, you know how important it is to train hard and take precautions to avoid getting hurt.
But even with the proper gear and preparation, athletic injuries happen. Treatment for athletic injuries varies based on the type and severity of the problem. In some cases, massage may be a good option to decrease pain and speed up recovery.
Common Athletic Injuries
Athletic injuries run the gamut from mild sprains to serious injuries to the bones, muscles or joints. Injuries can occur due to sudden forces, such as colliding with another athlete or hitting the ground. Swiftly moving in a different direction can also lead to an injury, such as twisting the knee or injuring the back.
Repetitive movements that are common in certain sports can also lead to athletic injuries. For example, it’s common for baseball pitchers to injure their elbows from repeating the same motion when pitching.
There are all kinds of athletic injuries that massage therapy may help including the following:
- Twisted knees
- Muscle spasms
- Overuse injuries
Types of Massage for Athletic Injuries and Pain Relief
Different methods of massage can be used to treat athletic injuries and provide pain relief. When it comes to athletic injuries, there is not a one size fits all approach. The type of massage recommended may depend on the injury and pain level, along with personal preferences. In some cases, a combination using different types of massage may be most effective. Typical massage methods used for athletic injuries include:
Deep tissue: Deep tissue massage involves the therapist applying pressure firm enough to manipulate the deeper tissues in the body. The tissue rubbed is on top of the muscle, not all the way through to the muscle itself. Deep tissue massage can ease muscle soreness and release knots.
Sports massage: Although some therapists use the terms interchangeably, sports massage is not the same as deep tissue massage. Sports massage involves manipulation of the muscle itself to promote healing while being careful not to damage the tissue any further. Sports massage can aid in flushing lactic acid and other wastes from the muscle, allowing nutrients to flow better. Different techniques may be used during a sports massage. For example, effleurage, which involves the gentle application of pressure with the thumbs, may be used. The pressure can be varied depending on the muscle that is worked. This technique is often used to increase blood flow to the injured muscle.
Myofascial release: Myofascial release involves the therapist applying firm pressure to the myofascial connective tissue. Myofascial release can be helpful for athletic injuries to decrease pain and improve range of motion.
Benefits and Effects of Massage for Recovery
Massage for athletic injury can be beneficial in several ways. Manipulation of the soft tissue through massage increases the flow of nutrients including oxygen to the muscle, allowing the body to heal itself. Athletic massage also has the following benefits and effects on the body:
- Improved circulation: Improved blood flow promotes healing and may shorten recovery time. But that’s not all—massage encourages the execration of certain fluids that negatively affect tissue repair.
- Prevention of adhesions: After an athletic injury, scar tissue can sometimes develop. Adhesions or scar tissue can affect range of motion and lead to decreased athletic performance. Massage can prevent or break down adhesions.
- Decreased stiffness: Athletic massage can decrease muscle tension and soreness and reduce cramping, which may improve soft tissue function.
- Improved flexibility: As the muscle relaxes and loosens, range of motion can improve. Increased flexibility can decrease the chances of future injuries and improve performance.
- Promotes relaxation: Regardless of the type, massage can have a sedative effect on the nervous system. Endorphins are released, which can decrease discomfort and the need for pain medications in some cases.
Tips for Athletic Massage
If you’re going to have a massage therapy for treatment of an athletic injury, there are a few things to keep in mind. One important consideration is that in some cases, healing must occur before massage is recommended. Also, massage should not replace medical care for sprains, fractures or serious injuries. Instead, it should be used as part of an overall treatment plan.
Before your massage, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you’re dehydrated, the muscles can stiffen, which means your massage may be more painful. Additionally, avoid eating a heavy meal for at least three hours before your massage. Lying face down on the massage table with a full stomach is uncomfortable. Plus, massage relaxes your body and slows down your systems including digestion.
When you have a massage for an athletic injury, it may not be as relaxing as other types of massage. Although it depends on the kind of massage and techniques use, sports and deep tissue massages involve firm pressure. Some people don’t find those types of massage as relaxing as Swedish massages.
It’s also beneficial to find a massage therapist who specializes in massage for athletic injuries. A specialist knows what style of massage and techniques to use to promote healing but avoid further damage.