On a daily basis, we subject our bodies to all manner of stresses and strains, from repetitive movements of our hands and arms at a computer, to constant tension in our muscles from sitting in one position for long periods of time, to vigorous sport and exercise. These factors inevitably cause damage on a microscopic level to the soft-tissues of the body, especially muscle tissue. These microtraumas are repaired using relatively inelastic, fibrotic scar tissue. Over time these accumulate and manifest as symptoms such as tight achy muscles, stiff joints, and can predispose our bodies to more significant injury.
Whilst it is difficult to prevent these everyday stresses and strains, the way in which our bodies repair the damage can certainly be influenced in a positive manner by manual therapies, including sports massage. Sports massage therapists use several effective techniques to encourage tissue healing and to avoid injury in the first place.
Direct massage improves blood flow through tissues, thereby facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and removal of waste products. Deep-tissue techniques which apply pressure along the length of the muscle fibres encourage any developing scar tissue to align correctly, thus preventing tight spots within the muscle. Stretching techniques work by stimulating the muscle to lengthen and scar tissue to align, which improves flexibility and elasticity. This in turn reduces the likelihood of injury, both sporting and non-sporting. Rhythmic movement techniques facilitate the quality and speed of acute injury healing by preventing the development of adhesions between the layers of tissue.
Some conditions which can benefit from sports massage include:
- Muscle strains and tears, e.g. calf , hamstring, adductors etc
- Ligament sprains, e.g. ankle, knee, shoulder
- Tendon injuries, e.g. Achilles, shoulder
- Post operative healing and recovery
- Stress, tension and general muscular aches and pains