Well, I had this same question before I started training to be a sports massage therapist, I thought that one massage is much the same as another just with a different name, but I swiftly discovered I was wrong.
In a nutshell, sports massage is a group of treatment methods that are therapeutic, so it’s not relaxing or soft - it needs to be firm to achieve the desired effect.
The main aim is to reduce tension, pain, discomfort and ultimately help restore good movement. It’s for the body, not the mind, so if you’re hoping to zen out and listen to whale inspired music, this isn’t the right massage! Equally it’s not designed to make you cry, we’re not brutal, but you’re definitely going to know it’s happening.
So here’s the science bit. The various techniques are designed to lengthen and relax the soft tissues and break down any unwanted fusions between the tissues (these can cause discomfort through limiting the body’s normal movement).
So what does this actually mean? Everyday we ask our bodies to adopt often uncomfortable postures or place hard demands on it for prolonged periods of time, like sitting at a desk, standing all day or even manual work. All of this and many more activities can leave us holding our back, neck, arms etc and wincing each time we stand up. Pain is the way our body tells us “Hey, stop it, I’ve had enough, or ‘I’m warning you, something’s really gonna hurt.”
When we are uncomfortable with the niggles, aches and pains we can become more short tempered and can experience a higher level of stress due to irritability (you thought we hadn’t noticed didn’t you?). So there’s loads of reasons sports massage can make you feel better all over.
Michelle Fletcher explains this in more detail here.
For those of you who like a Match of the Day approach to life, here’s just 3 of the highlights:
1. During physical activity – especially strenuous – muscle tension builds up in the body’s soft tissues.
2. One of the most common setbacks for athletes is delayed-onset muscle soreness, more commonly known as DOMS.
3. Heavily exercised muscles may also lose their capacity to relax. This causes chronically tight muscles, and loss of flexibility.
This article focuses on athletes but it should be said that anyone can benefit from sports massage, if you are in pain or discomfort it will probably help, so it’s worth speaking with a sports massage therapist. We’re a pretty nice bunch and always happy to advise.