Any athlete will tell you that the recovery time after an event is just as important – if not more – as the training leading up to a game, race or competition. While the preparation for an event makes sure that your body is equipped to handle whatever demands you will be making if it on “game day,” recovery allows your muscles to rebuild themselves after putting such a great amount of stress on them. If you were to ask an athlete at any level of their career – a high school basketball player, a college linebacker or a professional pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers – they would all tell you that one of the best things you can do for your body throughout your training process is making sports massages part of your regiment.
Sports massage therapists work with every kind of athlete to make sure that muscles are allowed to recover, flexibility is adequate and that range of motion is where it needs to be in order for the athlete to perform to his or her fullest potential. Sports and Rehabilitation therapy is a huge part of an athlete’s life; whether you are a weekend runner or making three-pointers for the Boston Celtics, if you’re putting your body through athletic stress, you can benefit from a sports massage.
Here are 14 things you should know before you book a sports massage:
- Purpose: Make sure you understand what a sports massage is. Sports massages are specially designed for athletes and are often customized to fit an athlete’s needs. These specialized massages work to reduce recovery time, improve endurance and prevent injuries to ensure you can perform your best during your sporting event.
- Research massage styles: As marathon running therapist Leslie Goldblatt Denunzio reminds readers in RunnersWorld.com’s article “14 Things to Know Before You Get a Sports Massage,” there are several type of massage, and each technique achieves something different. Before booking your treatment, research the different massages that are available and talk with a massage therapist to decide which technique would benefit you.
- 4 Types of Sports Massage: Anitra Brown discusses the four different sports massages in her article on com. Each massage offers different benefits.
- Pre-event massage: This massage is about loosening up your muscles and preparing them for use during an athletic event.
- Post-event massage: A post-event massage is about accelerating the recovery process, relaxing the muscles and treating injuries.
- Restorative: Usually given during the training process leading up to an event. It is designed to allow the athlete to push themselves harder and reduce the risk of injury.
- Rehabilitative: Designed for treating injuries, alleviating pain and working to get the body back to its pre-event health.
- Be aware of your needs: com reminds readers that not every massage technique will work for everyone; every athlete has different needs and requires combinations of different techniques. When you are preparing to schedule an appointment, make sure you understand what it is you are hoping to achieve with the massage. Be aware of your body and what it needs to gain from the experience before deciding which massage technique you would like to try.
- Deep pain? See a doctor: In Shape.com’s “5 things to Know about Your Sports Massage Before Getting on the Table,” NY Sports Med co-founder Luke Bongiorno advises that if you are in unbearable pain, you should seek the advice of a sports doctor before seeing a massage therapist. Denunzio agrees with Bongiorno and reminds massage clients that while therapists can locate and help alleviate pain, they are not qualified to make medical diagnoses.
- Research the Massage Studio: Before making an appointment, or even attending your appointment, make sure that the studio and its therapists are sports massage accredited. As Anitra Brown points out, many spas included sports massages to appeal to a male demographic but are not accredited. Make sure your therapist has been appropriately trained before attending an appointment.
- Not your average spa treatment: According to orthopedic massage therapist Rosemarie Rotenberger on RunnersWorld.com, a sports massage is not designed for leisure and relaxation; it is a highly interactive process that will require the athlete to move, stretch and interact with the therapist to achieve the best results.
- Keep Hydrated: You might have heard that it is possible you will be dehydrated after a massage. This is a commonly believed myth. Where the real danger of dehydration lies, says massage therapist Anna Gammal, is before your session. If your muscles are dehydrated before a massage they will stiffen up and cause discomfort and pain during your appointment.
- Eat Light: Denunzio advises that pre-massage meals should be as light as possible. Massages slow many bodily functions down, including digestion. If you have just eaten a large meal before your session, you will feel uncomfortable and might be unable to move as the therapist requires.
- Part of your training process: Gammal insists that including massages as part of your preparation for and recovery from events is essential. Making sure to get massages throughout your training will reduce injury and keep muscles loose to avoid overuse.
- Day-of-event massages are a No: Unless you are accustomed to massages, and have made them a part of your routine for an extended period of time, getting a massage the same day as an event is a no-go. Bongiorno explains that if your muscles aren’t used to massages you won’t know how your body will react to the new experience. Your muscles might tighten up afterwards, preventing you from performing at your best.
- Soreness is normal: While Bongiorno’s warning might suggest otherwise, Denunzio explains that soreness after a massage is perfectly normal. Soreness normally alleviates up to 48 hours after the massage.
- What to wear: According to Hannah Doyle with shape.com it is smart to make sure you are wearing undergarments when attending a massage. You will be asked to remove your pants and shirt and will be provided a sheet or towel for comfort, but you may be receiving your massage in your underwear.
- Sports Massages are for Everyone: Brown reminds her readers that sports massages are not just for athletes. Though designed for athletic individuals, sports massages can be helpful to anyone who is injured, experiencing chronic pain or is limited by restricted motion range.
When scheduling your sports massage remember to keep some of these points in mind. You will want to know everything you can about your condition, the therapist you will be seeing and even the types of food you should avoid before climbing on to that massage table. If you aren’t an athlete but feel that a sports massage would benefit you, reach out to a massage therapist and ask questions, tell them what you would hope to get out of a session and see what they can offer you! Just because a sports massage is specially designed for athletes does not mean that an athlete’s muscles are the only ones who could benefit from a little TLC.