Sports Massage and Mobility
Our body’s mobility is a result of the synergistic interactions of a complex system of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and brain signals that work together to initiate movement.
The integrity and strength of our mobility is a primary consideration in our overall health and well-being and it can be impaired by injury or disease. This is particularly true for athletes. Whether you are a professional or amateur, injuries do happen that can interrupt muscle function, cause pain and diminish overall body strength and capability.
Anatomy of The Motion Cycle
Body movement is initiated through an alternating series of contractions and relaxation. For example, if you want to bend your elbow, your brain first sends signals along the nervous system to the targeted skeletal muscles causing them to contract and shorten. (Skeletal muscles are responsible for the voluntary movement of arms, legs and torso.)
As these muscles contract, the force of the contraction activates tendons (the bands of connective tissue that join the muscles to the bones). The tendons tighten and pull on the appropriate bones causing your elbow to bend. When the brain stimulus is removed, the muscle and tendons relax and return to their natural resting state and your arm straightens out.
Ligaments are made up of the same material as tendons and connect the bones to each other. In the movement process, they have limited stretching capability and thus provide stability and controlled range of motion for joints as well as structure for the bones in the mobility process.
How Injuries Happen
Two of the most common injuries in sports are sprains and strains. Sprains are the result of muscles and tendons being overworked or overstretched. Strains involve the overstretching of ligaments, which can cause them to partially or fully tear. Common sites of sprains and strains include the plantar fascia ligaments or Achilles tendon in the foot; the hamstring muscles; rotator cuff in shoulders; and the groin area. In order to heal and avoid chronic malfunction in the future, these injuries require therapeutic and medical attention.
Sports massage is effective in all stages of athletic activity. It is used as a way to stimulate the areas of exertion prior to an event; relax and calm body tissues after an event; prevent injury during training; and control pain and restore health during rehab.
The sports massage process was developed to assist athletes prepare for peak performance during an event, recover more quickly after a competition, and stay healthy and functional during training. Sports massage emphasizes prevention as well as healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons. It can also help non-athletes who have injuries, chronic pain or constricted mobility.
Depending on the circumstance and intention of the healing, a sports massage therapist has an arsenal of techniques available to meet athletic needs:
- Swedish Massage is used to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids;
- Trigger point therapy breaks down adhesions (knots in the muscles);
- Myofascial stretching releases restrictions in the connective tissue throughout the body;
- Remedial Massage restores function to soft tissue.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Whatever specific modality your sports therapist uses, the protocol can:
- alleviate muscle tension, soreness, pain and inflammation post-event,
- warm-up, invigorate and loosen muscles pre-event,
- treat numbness, tingling, burning or aching muscles or repetitive strains,
- relieve the surrounding tissues of any adhesions or scar tissue, which block healing of the injured muscle, cause pain and make muscles injury prone,
- allow for the free flow of blood, lymph fluid and nerve conduction so the muscle will receive sufficient nutrients and energy to heal,
- increase flexibility and improve strength,
- help remove waste products such as lactic acid and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients for faster recovery,
- release any tension or pressure build-up in fascia
- through stretching, reverse muscle rigidity cause by hard training,
- help reduce pain and anxiety through relaxation techniques that release the body’s endorphins.
- help flush out swelling in joints, allowing for quicker healing.
Sports massage enhances sports performance and is a collaborative, versatile and effective partner in any training program. Not only is it a vital component of any professional athletic training routine but it can also be a supportive addition to the everyday sports enthusiasts’ regimen as well. It can strengthen the mobility of the body and thus play a major role in the prevention, treatment and accelerated healing of sports injuries.