By Tyler Laducer, L.M.T.
All athletes (weekend warriors, triathletes, pro athletes, etc.) can benefit from a massage, but a specialized sports massage can assist athletes in achieving more of their goals. Sports massage not only speeds up recovery much like regular massage, but it also can help enhance performances. Regarding the difference between a deep tissue massage and a sports massage - there is a subtle, yet important distinction. A targeted sports massage should stave off and help heal acute and chronic injuries. Generally speaking, focusing massage on specific areas of the body with the the intention of creating healing, allows athletes to heal, thrive, and evolve.
Every athlete wants to improve their performance, while also feeling as healthy as possible. With sports massage athletes can “have their cake and eat it too.” Sports massage is designed to focus the overused muscles of the body and allow them to recover while also helping the muscles achieve optimal capacity. Overworked muscles, especially those of athletes, tend to become vastly over contracted. When a muscle is over contracted it cannot use its entire range of motion, which means it loses flexibility. In contrast, if one muscle is over contracted then it leaves another muscle over lengthened and this can lead to higher injury chances. With sports massage and focusing on these muscles the facial tissue can be released from both over contracted and over lengthened muscles to allow them to return to a more optimal length without causing performance to suffer. Now that muscles are in more optimal ranges of lengthening it allows more range of motion, less “tightness”, and a lowered chance of injury thus improving an athletes performance.
A lot of people ask the question, “What’s the difference between a deep tissue massage and a sports massage?” The answer to this is more subtle than obvious. In a deep tissue massage, therapist is focused on slowly getting deeper and deeper into the muscle tissue without creating pain with the pressure. Generally, deep tissue is considered to be more full body work and in doing so it misses the intent of creating change in a focused area. Sports massage - and spending more time on specific muscles - allows a bigger release of a smaller area where deep tissue is more of a smaller release of larger areas.
The biggest obstacle for any athlete is inability to practice and compete due to pain. Whether it be a chronic injury or an acute, brand new injury, it will inhibit an athletes ability to perform and compete. Sports massage can help an athlete stave off acute injuries by increasing the range of motion and flexibility in the body. For those nagging, chronic injuries that never seem to go away, but don’t necessarily keep athletes away from competition sports massage can also help. Using sports massage on chronic injuries can make them more manageable, if not get rid of them completely. Most chronic injuries for athletes come from the repetitive activity done every day. By focusing on this issue it can break up those nasty adhesions in the tissue that create these chronic pain. Without the pain from acute or chronic injuries it allows athletes to train and perform at a higher level without the thought of injury in the back of their minds.
It is worth noting that deep tissue massage is very helpful and needed in the athletic community as well. In fact, it has a similar impact as a sports massage. With that said, sports massage can have a higher impact especially in localized, specific muscles that athletes use every day in training. Both can help athletes perform at their peak. The tiny difference between the two massage modalities can also be the tiny difference in an athlete's performance. If an athlete is injured they cannot perform like they want to and so the best way to perform is to be available to train and compete without injury. Sports massage is so beneficial for athletes to allow them to stay on the grind and perform, as well as allowing them to enhance their performance and do the best they can to be the best they can.
Sports massage is also unique in that just 30 minutes on one specific area of your body will provide great benefit. It time or money are preventing you from healing, try an abbreviated, focused session. It is important that we evolve past the the old notion that massage is a luxury. Sports massage is a necessity for all of us! Whether we are competing, working out or simply living a life of adventure, we are all athletes.
Tyler Laducer L.M.T., C.R. is a licensed massage therapist (LMT) and certified reflexologist (CR). He practices at Washington Park Chiropractic as the lead massage therapist and specializes in Sports massage, Medical massage, and Reflexology.