Sports Massage: Everything You Need to Know

ultimate sports massage guide Physiotherapy in London

Sports massage is for anyone with an active lifestyle, athlete or not. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can reap the benefits of a professional sports massage. The benefits range from improving your sleep and rekindling your mindset to reducing muscle soreness and aiding recovery after events or injury.

But what exactly is a sports massage? What techniques are used? And should you see a sports massage therapist? This guide, written by our physio and sports massage experts at One Body LDN, will answer all.

Find out what to expect from a professional London sports massage clinic below.

What Is a Sports Massage?

Sports massage is the perfect therapy for the active and working body. It was developed as a long-term massage technique to help athletes increase their performance or recover after an event or injury. It can be used for any active individual, whether you’re a yoga instructor with sore joints or an amateur boxer gearing up for the next match. Even if you’re just a casual gym-goer or fitness buff, a sports massage can be highly beneficial.

Here’s sports massage in a nutshell:

  • Focuses on the musculoskeletal system, much like musculoskeletal physiotherapy.
  • Promotes balance and proper functioning.
  • Reduces pain, improves mobility and flexibility, relaxes the body.
  • Involves soft tissue manipulation with a variety of techniques.
  • Is suitable for pre and post-event training, recovery, and injury rehab.
  • Should always be conducted by a professional!

There are various different types of sports massage, each adapted to your goals. We’ll explore these in our guide too. 

The biggest misconception we encounter is that sports massage hurts. It shouldn’t! During some massage techniques, you may feel discomfort or a “good kind of pain” Importantly, it shouldn’t hurt or damage any injuries, and the discomfort should not last far beyond the sports massage session.

The best way to ensure your sports massage is highly effective at reducing pain and inflammation is to choose a professional sports massage therapist.

Sports Massage Therapists (What They Do)

A good sports massage therapist should be highly trained, often with a college or university education background – a degree in sports therapy or a level 4 certificate, for example. Look for sports therapists with good qualifications, testimonials, and years of experience.

Other key skills a sports therapist should have include communication, empathy, and sensitivity. You need to feel like you can trust your sports therapist!

When you’re looking for a sports therapist, look for experience with the type of sports therapy you need and your sport or activity. At One Body LDN, you can find out exactly what our therapists specialise in, from rugby and football physiotherapy to athletic recovery or gym-based rehabilitation.

One reason we are considered the best clinic in London for sports massage and physiotherapy is that we know exactly what you’re feeling right now. We know what it means to dedicate, commit, excel, compete and recover at sports. Just watch our team go:

Techniques We Use

During your first session with a sports massage therapist, you can discuss your ailments and your goals. They will give you a physical assessment too, checking your posture, mobility, flexibility and strength. This will determine the type of sports massage we focus on, the body area we target, and the techniques we use. 

In general, sports massage uses targeted deep tissue massage to penetrate and soften deep layers of muscle – this is similar to physiotherapy and why the sports massage price is comparable too. Some of the techniques include:

  • Stroking (effleurage): using oils and lotions, we stroke and massage the body to stimulate, warm, and relax the tissues.
  • Kneading (petrissage): applying pressure to squeeze, lift, and manipulate muscles, increasing blood flow and nutrient circulation.
  • Hacking and cupping (tapotement): rhythmically striking the tissues to increase muscle tone, soften hard tissues, and stimulate muscle reflex. Great for pre-event massage!
  • Vibration: simply vibrating the muscles to relax and soothe.
  • Friction: deep muscle tissue penetration, ideal for injury rehabilitation.
  • Wringing: twisting, squeezing and lifting tissue away from the bone to release tension and enhance elasticity.
  • Trigger Pointing/Knot Release: applying pressure to painful areas of the muscles (trigger points or knots) to reduce pain and muscle tightness.
  • Releasing (myofascial, positional and soft tissue): releasing involves relaxing the body. Myofascial focuses on connective tissue/fascia, positional focuses on hyperactive muscles, and soft tissue is self-explanatory!
  • Swedish-style: light, smooth stroking techniques to reduce tension and stress. A more relaxing form of sports massage.

Who Can Get a Sports Massage?

How do you know if you need physiotherapy, a sports massage, or just a relaxing spa massage? First, if you are being referred by a doctor, you’ll typically need to see a physiotherapist. Learn more about when to see a physiotherapist in our complete physio guide

If you have no ailments and your desire for a massage has nothing to do with sports or athletic performance, then you can still massively benefit from a deep-tissue sports massage. This is a great idea for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

Sports massage, on the other hand, is ideal for:

  • People leading highly active lifestyles – runners, bodybuilders, fitness instructors, etc.
  • Corporate workers with stiff necks, upper backs and shoulders.
  • Both amateur and professional athletes.
  • Anyone with a sports injury.

Whether you are training, sitting all day, want to prevent sports injuries (or heal from them), or are preparing for a sports event, sports massage is ideal. You don’t need to be a pro athlete either. Even if you just hit the gym or go for a run a couple of times a week and want to improve your performance or soothe some aches, you can book a sports massage.

You can get started today with One Body LDN, so we can melt away your aches and pains with deep massage techniques. A sports massage session with one of our highly qualified therapists will help you reconnect with your body and take it to the next level, whatever your goals. Learn more about the different types of sports massage below, or book an initial assessment to speak to one of our sports massage therapists to get things rolling.

Types of Sports Massage

The types of sports massage are split by their purpose and the scenario in which they are appropriate.

Massage should be part of a long-term training regime, as many of the benefits (listed below) take time to emerge. Once you have found a sports massage therapist, they will create a schedule based on your sport and goals, using the different types of sports massage outlined below.

Maintenance Sports Massage

Maintenance sports massage is just as described – regular sessions to help you maintain your performance. Depending on your lifestyle, activity levels, and goals, this could involve weekly or biweekly sports massages.

The benefits of maintenance sports massage include injury prevention (see below), reduced recovery times, easing away soreness, and taking a moment to focus on wellness. We know that you want to train as hard as possible, but with regular sports massage sessions and a better connection to your body, you can work smarter as well as harder!

Training Sports Massage

Training sports massage sessions are designed to fit between personal training sessions – they are very popular with athletes. During these massage sessions, deep-tissue massage relieves tension and soreness while reducing inflammation. This can reduce the risk of injury during intense training.

Injury Prevention

This type of sports massage focuses on identifying imbalances and tightness in the musculoskeletal system. By ensuring your body is in the best shape possible, we can help you reduce the risk of injury during training or events.

Injury Rehabilitation

Although sports massage can be quite intense, it is also suitable for sports injury rehabilitation, including both chronic and acute cases. Make sure your therapist knows of your current and past injuries so they can adapt the techniques used to suit them. This ensures we can work around injured areas, applying light pressure and relieving pain. Once swelling and pain subsides, more intense techniques can be used to rebuild strength through recovery.

Pre-Event Massage

A pre-event massage is designed for professionals and amateur athletes before an event or competition, whatever the sport. Received around 8 to 72 hours before the event begins, this sports massage utilises deep tissue massage techniques to release any tension that’s built up from event training.

For sporting events where having relaxed muscles is ideal (boxing and running fit this category), a light pre-event massage can actually boost performance. It can increase blood supply, improve flexibility and mobility, and get your mind into the zone. You can incorporate the massage into a pre-event warm-up routine.

Post-Event Massage

Post-event massages are best within 72 hours after the event, ideally within the 24 to 48 hour window. It’s all about reducing inflammation, relaxing the muscles, promoting blood flow, and ultimately making recovery a smoother process. The aim of post-event sports massage is to help return your body to its strong, pre-event state.

7 Benefits of Sports Massage!

Below are seven interesting benefits of a sports massage. Many of these are backed by science (we’ve linked to the research if you’re interested!), but some are more anecdotal. To discuss what to expect from a sports massage, book an initial session to discuss with a physio and massage therapist.

Self-Awareness and Diagnosis

To master your sport, you first need to master your body. One of the great benefits of seeing a qualified sports massage therapist (or physiotherapist, for that matter) is having the chance to slow down and develop self-awareness.

You’ll garner a better understanding of your weak spots, undertrained areas, and more. We may even identify and diagnose hidden ailments (such as damaged joints or imbalances) in the process.

With a better understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and limitations, you can better tailor your training regime for the results you want. At One Body LDN, our clinics are equipped with state-of-the-art gym equipment, and our team can provide advice on strength training and conditioning too.

Prevent Injury

Relieving tension to reduce pressure on your joints and reconnecting with your body can help you more mindfully train for your sport. In turn, this has the potential to prevent injuries. Although there have been few scientific studies conducting rigorous, long-term tests to assess if sports massage can reduce injury, we are confident in the practice.

The benefits for your body, from improving flexibility to enhancing performance, can easily translate to fewer injuries during training. Likewise, relaxing before an event (see relaxation below) can get you in the right mental state to perform at your best, thus avoiding mistakes that could lead to injury.

Improve Recovery

Massage reduces inflammation, relaxes the muscles, and can even reduce anxiety. After an event or tough training session, sports massage is an incredibly useful tool for improving recovery.

Research is still inconclusive as to whether sports massage can reduce the duration of your recovery period, but we do know that it can reduce pain and DOMS. It stimulates blood flow to the tissues, aiding in repair. This means you may be able to get back to training sooner or train lightly while recovering – talk to your sports massage therapist about what they recommend for your body.

Relaxation

While sports massage has a most notable impact on your physical body, we find that it also has a great effect on the mental health of athletes and fitness followers. A massage facilitates relaxation, letting the muscles and the mind let go of stress and tension.

It is a chance to quiet the mind and stop overthinking goals and upcoming competitions – or let go of previous ones. A sports massage session can refresh individuals, increasing their sense of wellbeing. It’s not unusual for our clients to report reduced anxiety and better sleep after regular sports massage sessions.

Looking for proof? A review found that:

Changes in parasympathetic activity (as measured by heart rate, blood pressure and heart rate variability) and hormonal levels (as measured by cortisol levels) following massage result in a relaxation response (physiological mechanisms). A reduction in anxiety and an improvement in mood state also cause relaxation (psychological mechanisms) after massage.

Reduce Pain and Muscle Soreness

Massaging muscles can relieve soreness and pain – anyone who has experienced a massage (sports massage or otherwise) can attest to that. For athletes and active individuals, however, a sports massage can be particularly useful here.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is caused by a buildup of lactic acid when your muscles aren’t receiving the oxygen they need. It can strike anywhere between 24 and 72 hours after strenuous exercise, causing unnecessary pain and impacting your training schedule. Sports massage has been found to reduce DOMS and also improve flexibility, so you can enjoy a smoother recovery.

Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion

Reducing muscle tightness and knots is part of sports massage. However, massage assesses the whole musculoskeletal system – this includes your bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments as well as your muscles. With vigorous exercise, your muscles tighten, and blood flow is restricted. Sports massage resolves this by loosening the muscles and promoting blood and lymphatic flow. As a result, it can be highly effective at improving your flexibility and range of motion.

Enhance Performance

Finally, performance. Is it any surprise that with the benefits listed above that performance is also enhanced through sports massage? Whether you just hit the gym regularly or train for a specific sports event, regular sports massage can ensure your body is at optimum.

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Book an Award-Winning Sports Massage at One Body LDN

Whether you want to book massages around an event, release stiff neck muscles from office work or incorporate regular sports massages into your fitness regime, One Body can help. Our London sports massage is an effective way to melt away tension, stress, and soreness from every muscle.

Our deep and strong massage treatments are conducted by experienced and highly trained sports massage therapists in our state-of-the-art London clinics. Choose a therapist from our team and discover award-winning sports massage at One Body LDN today.

FAQs

What is sports massage therapy?

Sports massage therapy is the manipulation of the body, using deep tissue massage, to treat soreness, enhance recovery, and boost performance. It is ideal for serious athletes, amateurs, or just active individuals.

Are massages good for athletes?

There are many benefits associated with sports massage for athletes, from reducing tension before a big event to enhancing recovery and soothing painful, stiff muscles. There are many other purported benefits too, such as reduced DOMS and increased flexibility, that you may experience after a sports massage therapy session.

Can I get a sports massage with an injury?

Yes, sports massage techniques can be adapted to work around or treat an injury. This may help speed up the recovery process too!

What should I wear to sports massage therapy?

Comfortable loose-fitting clothes – a t-shirt and shorts are a good outfit, giving your massage therapist access to assess your body and target massage to specific body areas.

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