Massage Therapy for Athletes
Once a luxury associated only with ladies of leisure, massage has become an integral part of training for many athletes. Two important benefits of massage include increased flexibility and reduced pain. And, after a hard day's workout, massage can also provide a sense of relaxation. Some of the techniques used to massage athletes include:
Trigger points are irritable spots in a muscle that cause pain. They are sometimes referred to as knots.
Not Just a One Shot Deal
Massage is most effective as part of an athlete's total training program, which includes a healthful diet, adequate hydration, proper stretching, and well-designed workouts. Sporadic, post-event massage, such as that available after marathons, does not have much physiological benefit. Studies have shown that light exercise—a brisk walk or easy jog—not a one-time massage, is the best way to speed recovery after a strenuous event.
Do Not Touch
There are situations in which massage would not be appropriate. These include:
Recent injury—athletes should wait until swelling has subsided and bad bruises have healed—about 2-3 days after injury—before receiving massage.
Circulatory problems—Athletes who suffer from phlebitis or other circulatory disorders have very fragile veins that can be easily damaged by the direct pressure of massage therapy.
Skin conditions—Athletes should wait until open wounds or contagious skin conditions are resolved before receiving massage.
Bone injury—Massage is contraindicated in patients with significant trauma to the bones or joints, such as fracture or dislocation.
Other conditions—Athletes with infectious diseases and other conditions may require a gentler form of massage, or may not be able to tolerate treatment at all. In these cases, check with your physician first.
Is Massage for You?
From soothing tired muscles to calming an overworked mind, massage is a potentially useful addition to any athlete's training program.
If you decide to try sports massage, consider this:
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD