The Aims and Techniques of the Sports Massage
Although originally developed as a means to assist athletes in preparing their bodies to perform optimally under the demanding conditions of their sport, or to aid their recovery after an event, sports massage has since been introduced into the public domain. Now, its many benefits are also available to non-athletes, and depending on the techniques applied, it can be useful both for the treatment of injuries and pain, as well as for their prevention.
Although it may affect them to varying degrees, professional and amateur athletes, manual workers, and even those of us who lead comparatively sedentary lives are all at risk of soft tissue injuries involving muscles, tendons, and ligaments, any of which can result in pain or limited mobility. To treat these types of injuries, the therapist will first examine the given problem area, and then apply whatever he or she believes will be the most appropriate sports massage techniques, based upon training, practical experience, and patient history.
The concept of this form of manual therapy is certainly not a new one. In fact, it is known to have been applied more than 3 000 years ago by the Chinese, Indians, and Greeks of the time. Despite such early origins, however, it was only due to the efforts of a Swedish physical education teacher named Per Henrik Ling during the early years of the nineteenth century that it was eventually adopted by the Western World. Following his death, Ling’s work was continued by a trio of his peers and, in time, the resulting therapeutic techniques became appropriately known as Swedish massage from which those now used to treat and prevent sports injuries were subsequently derived.
One should consider sports massage as consisting of four types. The type applied before event is aimed at loosening up the muscles and getting them prepared. After an event, the focus of treatment is on speeding up the recovery process, attending to any injuries and generally encouraging the relaxation process. The third type consists of restorative procedures and these are a component of training that can help athletes to push themselves harder by reducing their susceptibility to training injuries. Finally, the fourth type, described as rehabilitative, encompasses techniques designed to alleviate pain, treat injuries and generally restore an athlete’s body to its former level of health and fitness.
While most of these therapists who are only qualified to perform sports massage, it has become common practice among physiotherapists to include it among their other professional services. When consulting a graduate healthcare professional for this purpose, patients gain the attention of a trained diagnostician with a much wider range of treatment options to offer if necessary.