by Dr. Darrell M. Schreyer, D.C.
Sports massage therapy is rapidly becoming a hot item.
In conventional (Swedish) massage the therapist uses a variety of hands-on methods to stretch and loosen muscle and connective tissue. This will also greatly improve blood flow and lymph circulation, as well as reduce blood pressure. Massage therapy will also speed the removal of metabolic waste products (lactic acid) resulting from exercise or inactivity, thus allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the cells and tissues.
Clearly, many massage benefits are of special interest to the athlete. Different from conventional full-body massage, sports massage focuses on the muscles relevant to the particular athletic activity.
Dan Jacob of Myo-Rehab Therapy Associates in Kirkland and Bellevue states that 20 to 25% of clients are being treated for a sport related problem. He further explained that the three basic techniques utilized in sports massage are cross-fiber friction massage, deep compression to the belly of the muscle, and trigger point therapy. Sports massage is utilized more frequently, is shorter in duration, and usually is more vigorous in nature than conventional Swedish massage technique. This Swedish technique is contraindicated to high performance athletes prior to activity as it has been found to relax the person too much and performance is actually diminished.
Massage prior to and after events is something that, due to mostly Russian influences, are becoming more mainstreamed in high performance athletes. Some top Russian athletes receive up to 300 sessions a year, and many foreign teams travel extensively with a massage therapist as part of their entourage.
Massage prior to the athletic event loosens, warms and readies the muscles for intensive use, especially when combined with a strict stretching routine. Besides helping to prevent injury, it can also improve athletic performance and endurance. Post-activity massage relieves pain, prevents stiffness, and prevents blood pooling in the extremities, letting the athlete return to normal sooner.
The Olympic Games, Boston Marathon, Goodwill Games and the Ironman Triathlon are a few of the major sporting events of recent years where massage therapy was offered to athletes to improve performance and increase efficiency. Track and field athletes, swimmers, bicyclists, tennis and soccer player are among the top users of massage as a training tool. Not surprisingly, recreational athletes and weekend warriors are discovering the benefits of sports massage as well. Runners, pick-up basketball players, and aerobic dancing enthusiasts are including massage as a regular part of their workouts.
As I have mentioned in past articles, massage therapy is also a great compliment to chiropractic treatment. In the reduction of muscle spasms and tension, as well as the increased removal of waste products from around the site of injury, the patient benefits from reduced healing time. It has worked extremely efficiently with many of my patients, as well as myself, in getting back to activity.