The benefits of a sports massage are numerous: improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and a boosted circulatory system, just to name a few. Sports massage is a customized type of massage using appropriate modalities such as stretching, cupping, deep tissue and myofascial release techniques aimed to help reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure. Learn more from experienced massage therapist Chamara Pittman, CMT at Refresh Therapeutic Bodywork.
Photo courtesy of Chamara Pittman
Q & A with Chamara Pittman, CMT
Refresh Therapeutic Bodywork
Q: What are the benefits of sports massage?
A: When I worked with the Oakland Raiders, I once heard a player in the training room tell another player who was receiving what looked like a painful session on his ankle “I don’t have to be BE better, I just need to FEEL better.” That is a guiding principle of most of the work we as manual therapists do with athletes. Sure, we are able to help athletes at all levels recover from injuries and release tight muscles, increase mobility and agility, but so much of an athlete’s performance is mental and we are part of their team that gives them an edge. When an athlete, from an NFL player to a weekend hiker, leaves the table feeling renewed and loose, they suddenly feel like they can reach new heights. That’s the edge of regular sports massage. It's the mutual understanding between therapist and athlete of knowing that the body will go where the mind takes it. Sports massage helps to give athletes confidence in their body's abilities.
Q: How does sports massage promote muscle recovery?
A: Probably the most beneficial ways sports massage promotes muscle recovery is that massage helps to relax tight muscles, and it helps with blood flow so nutrients are getting to those muscles.
Photo courtesy of Chamara Pittman
Q: What massage techniques are used during sports massage?
A: I use everything in my tool belt for sports massage. I work off of more of a philosophy than I do a particular technique. It also depends on where the athlete is in their sports cycle. After working with professional athletes for several years I realized that you have to be adaptable. The goal is performance at the highest level. So what does that mean? Do I do deep tissue as soon as football player gets off of the practice field? Maybe…but if he just got hit 1,000 times, he probably needs to down regulate and receive nice gentle movements to bring his body back to a resting state. We can assess during that time and then set aside a time for the other work when he has adequate time to recover from any deep tissue work before a game. My tool belt includes deep tissue, Fascial Stretch Therapy, Thai, Shiatsu, cupping and even Swedish massage because sleep and relaxation is part of my philosophy on performance.
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Q: What Can I expect?
A: In the beginning, a client can expect a thorough intake and review of their client information as wells as an understanding of their sports cycle of training and competition before the season starts. This will ensure the therapist and athlete have an agreed upon goal (especially if they are new to working with each other). In a bodywork session a client can expect to move and change positions more than your typical Swedish massage. They can also expect the therapist to engage them more in the treatment through active release and stretching and there will probably be more communication since athletes tend to know their bodies and notice small hindrances in their movement patterns that a therapist will want to take into account during a session. The goal is performance, so sports massage is a collaborative effort.
Q: Do you need any special equipment or accessories to perform sports massage?
A: I typically just use my hands. I also do cupping and FST which uses straps. I have seen therapists who are trained in various other techniques that require tools use those as well. I always make sure my client is comfortable if I want to use anything besides my hands, and I explain what those tools are being used for.
Q: Who can benefit from sports massage?
A: Anyone who is active and wants to get the best out of their body can benefit from a sports massage. You don't have to be a professional athlete. I also work on local politicians who are out every day in the public walking miles. Trust me, they benefit as much as anybody. However, sports massage is not for everyone. For those that may have some chronic issues or want to feel pampered or maybe just go to sleep, this may not be the therapy for them. In some cases, perhaps, they should ask their therapist to simply incorporate relaxation massage into their treatment packages. But, for folks that need their bodies to be their ally on a regular basis, sports therapy can be a great treatment.