As an athlete can you benefit from massage? The average sports enthusiast might have their doubts. If you are running 30km a week, or lifting weights 3 times a week or generally pushing your body to its limits, how can a shoulder rub help?
First of all, let’s have another look at the definition of “massage”. The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO), in their scope of practice, defines massage therapy as:
The practice of massage therapy is the assessment of the soft tissue and joints of the body and the treatment and prevention of physical dysfunction and pain of the soft tissue and joints by manipulation to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function, or relieve pain. (Massage Therapy Act 1991)
Pretty wordy isn’t it? Most people that want a massage for some relaxation don’t want to hear any of that. They would prefer a nice, relaxing, soothing massage… the kind you see on tv or in the movies. But the beauty of the definition is how open it is. As an RMT, I treat “soft tissue and joints by manipulation”. Soft tissue can be muscles, ligaments, tendons, or fascia. Well, we all know what muscles are and we generally accept that RMT’s are pretty adept at “loosening” or “getting the kinks out of” muscles. Ligaments are what are involved in ankle sprains, MCL or ACL tears of the knee. Tendons are involved in any kind of tendonitis or tendinosis overuse conditions such as treat golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. And then there’s fascia which act like ropes attaching a sail from the boat to the mast. If you imagine that the sail is the muscle that powers the boat, then the lines, ropes and pulleys are the fascia that decide how tightly the sail/muscle will be stretched and how powerful the sail/muscle can be. An RMT is trained to work on the muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons and joints or basically all those great little parts that work together to achieve peak athletic performance. For the moment, let’s forget about the typical relaxing “massage” and start thinking of this as “therapy performed by a massage therapist” much the same way we think of therapy performed by a physical therapist or chiropractor. Massage therapists are qualified to perform most of the stretches, exercises and manipulations that a physiotherapist does.
Athletes are familiar with the burn and soreness in the muscles that accompanies a good workout. The pain is often caused by lactic acid build-up and inflammation in the muscles or spasm (shortening) of the muscles. During a post event treatment, RMT’s can flush out the muscles helping to remove lactic acids and other metabolic waste products while flooding the muscle tissue with fresh oxygenated blood. RMT’s can use different massage & stretching techniques to lengthen the muscle back to its normal length and reduce pain from muscle spasm. These all help to reduce pain, increase mobility and shorten healing time after an event or a tough workout.
During the training season athletes are constantly trying to find a balance between pushing the body harder while nursing old injuries and preventing new ones. These injuries or imbalances can shorten an athletic career and decrease performance. Scar tissue or fascial adhesions often build up over injured areas or between muscles almost gluing these structures together and decreasing strength and mobility. Rolfing & MRT work to remove and re-align the scar tissue. Acupuncture is also very effective at decreasing inflammation by giving the injury the equivalent of a cortisone injection.
Here are some examples of injuries that Sports Massage can help:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Hip Pain
- Hip Tightness
- Knee Pain
- Tennis Elbow
- Golfer’s Elbow
- Patellar Femoral Syndrome
- Post Event Stretch & Flush
- Frozen Shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
- Herniated Disc
- Ankle Sprain
- Wrist Sprain
- Quadricep or Hamstring strain