Massage as a therapy dates back thousands of years with references to be found in documented evidence from ancient Egypt, China, Greece, India and Arabic nations. It was Hippocrates himself, the founder of antiquity’s greatest school of physicians and the man behind the world renowned Hippocratic Oath who was a great proponent of massage and is reputed to have said: “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day”. He was of the firm belief that anyone wishing to study medicine should also master the art of massage, one of the most natural healing therapies known to man.
Massage as a technique is applied with a therapist’s hands, fingers, thumbs, forearms and even knees and feet in some scenarios. It involves the manipulation of soft tissues in the body. Amongst other things, massage aims to afford the body relief from pain and stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, aid general wellness and rehabilitate sports injuries.
Below, we explore the area of sports massage and techniques.
Sports massage as a phenomenon is not new to the sporting world, being widely used by athletes in Europe throughout the 20th century. Latterly it has grown exponentially in popularity due to the benefits to be accrued not just in terms of sports related injuries but also as part of a pre- and post-competition regime which targets areas of the body most used and stressed during competitive sport. Sports massage reduces the muscle tautness that stems from overuse and overtraining. It sets out to relax muscles, enhance muscle flexibility and has been proven to significantly reduce soreness and damage after activity. Whilst its name assumes it is only pertinent to sports enthusiasts, a regular sports massage can in fact help us all.
So, what techniques are out there and which might be attractive to us? Let’s have a look at some now.
Deep Tissue Massage
If there’s one massage therapy that conjures up the “Ouch” factor, this is it! Deep tissue massage sets out to do exactly what it says on the tin: reach deep into layers of muscles, fibres and fascia to penetrate, work and soften tight and hard muscles, thus providing a passive form of “work-out”. It can indeed be painful and can cause the body to tense up, but its track record shows it to be extremely beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain and muscle and sports-related injuries.
Myofascial release bears some resemblance to deep tissue massage but concentrates purely on targeting the myofascia, the intricate, three-dimensional web of tissue that connects, surrounds and supports every organ, muscle, bone, artery and vein in our body. Whilst other sports massage techniques will involve the application of oils and waxes, myofascial release does not, enabling the therapist to get a firmer grip on the skin during treatment and feel more accurately for the fascia fibres. Myofascia will normally feel pliable and elastic to the practitioner. Once tightened areas have been identified, the therapist will work on affected areas by applying light manual pressure which stretches and massages those rigid and taut myofascia. Whilst it can be an intense process, it should not be painful and any initial discomfort should quickly subside. Patients can find the treatment both satisfying and deeply relaxing.
Trigger Point Therapy
Every muscle has a potentially active trigger point which can be activated by muscle overuse, infection, inflammation, trauma or nerve pain. These trigger points can cause pain in the affected area, manifest themselves as muscle knots but can also result in transferred pain where the discomfort is felt in a different part of the body. The therapist can easily identify the taut bands of muscle and tissue accompanying the trigger points and will apply pressure and sustained compression on the affected tissue for between 30 to 90 seconds. Trigger point therapy is often very useful in breaking the cycle of chronic pain patterns following an injury.
Of all the techniques highlighted so far, this is the therapy that conjures up pleasant images of relaxing music, dreamy aromas and a restful spa environment. That may well be the case but Swedish massage is also a big player in terms of sports massage techniques. It is of course far less intense than deep tissue massage or trigger point therapy but can be as beneficial as any of the techniques highlighted above. Swedish massage sets out to stimulate and release our body’s natural endorphins, our “feel good” hormones. Long, slow and gentle massage strokes are applied to the whole body releasing tension from the body and generating a sense of intense relaxation and promoting both psychological and emotional well-being by reducing stress.
Bowen Technique or Bowen Therapy is becoming increasingly popular amongst athletes and professional sports people alike as word gets round of the benefits to be accrued from this type of treatment. The Bowen technique is a gentle, non-invasive procedure, so gentle in fact that patients may not even be aware that anything is happening and is safe to be used on any age group from tiny babies to the old and frail. It neither involves deep penetration nor sets out to trigger a pain response but aims to target frozen areas by gently releasing restrictions in the fascia. This simultaneously resets the receptors and nerve endings which hold sway over muscle tension, balance and body movement. Its propensity to release surface and deep-seated tension and help the body readjust can furnish rapid relief to the sufferer and a quick return to sport if that is the intention of the treatment. Regular Bowen Therapy has been proven both to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury amongst competitive sports people.
Learn More with College of Bowen Studies
Ultimately, whatever sports massage technique you decide on, the aims are similar: to enhance movement and flexibility, shorten recovery time, improve the supply of nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissues and muscles, reduce pain and to offer not only physical but psychological benefits too: a strong and focussed mind will give a definite edge in any competitive sport.
If this article has caught your interest and you would like to know more about Bowen Therapy and the courses we offer, please contact us today.