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Sports and remedial massage is used to treat injuries, chronic pain and restricted range of motion, reduce fatigue, swelling and tension from heavily worked muscles as well as accelerate recovery from strenuous activity. These may be the result of sports activities such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, tennis, strength training and aerobics or the daily activities of mothers looking after small children, gardening and any strenuous use of the body during work. Massage is also used to treat the body in situations where its physical limits have been stretched as in pregnancy, labour or surgery. Rather than being a general full-body massage, the sports and remedial massage focuses on a specific complaint, such as a pulled hamstring, sore neck and shoulders or a frozen shoulder.
As far as the structures involved, injuries to the general public are identical to injuries to athletes. Thus, strained rotator cuff muscles in a swimmer are the same injury in straining the shoulder during vacuuming or digging in the garden. The only difference between the public and an athlete is that the general public will not be as motivated to follow up an injury with massage therapy as the athlete, who has a strong wish to return to sport quickly. In most cases, the athlete will also recover quicker with massage therapy as they will be in better condition. Still, the daily injuries of the general public as well as sports injuries can be equally attended to with remedial sports at home massage techniques.
Prevention and Recovery
Sports and remedial massage helps prevent injuries and accelerate recovery from physical activity. Incorporating massage in your conditioning program has many benefits. Massage helps you get into good condition faster with less soreness, less stiffness, quicker recovery from heavy workouts and less risk of injury. Taking care of the minor injuries and wear-and-tear naturally caused by vigorous exercise must be part of a complete workout routine as well as the exercise itself.
Massage significantly reduces pain and has substantial benefits in three major areas:
1) diminishing the intensity of delayed muscle soreness,
2) deactivating trigger points and
3) helping prevent injuries to heavily exercised, chronically tight muscles by increasing circulation and elasticity.
A number of different factors, such as a reduction of blood flow due to local muscle spasms or micro tears in the muscle or connective tissue may cause pain twenty-four to forty-eight hours after exercise (delayed muscle soreness). This is unlikely to be caused by a build up of lactic acid as this is removed within thirty minutes of exercise
Decreased flexibility and muscle pain can also be the result of trigger points, which are hyper-irritable nodules or spasms in muscle, tendons and periosteum which are constantly painful and cause referred pain when pressed. They can be caused by repetitive action, repeated strenuous exercise, a car accident, falling or some other sudden trauma.
Pain, loss of flexibility and chronically tense or hypertonic muscles can be caused by muscle being heavily exercised since the result of this is the loss of the muscle's capacity to relax. A predisposition to muscle tears, pulls and other injuries as well as painful muscles can be caused by this lack of flexibility. Tight, overworked muscles also restrict blood flow (ischemia) which causes pain.
Massage therapy makes muscle more supple, relaxed and efficient, less susceptible to pain and injury and capable of working harder and more often while recovering quicker.
Massage Improves Blood Flow
Developed in the 1980s, sports and remedial massage incorporates classic Swedish massage strokes with compression, trigger-point massage therapy and cross-fibre friction massage techniques. It was designed to provide the therapeutic impact that meets the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes and is typically divided into pre-event, post-event and maintenance massage routines which assist in the prevention of and recovery from injuries.
Specific massage techniques produce different effects in local increases in skeletal muscle blood flow. Research indicates that effleurage produces a small and transient increase in blood flow, petrissage has a variable and inconsistent effect on blood flow and tapotement produces significant increases in blood flow comparable with exercise hyperaemia. The compression stroke, the hallmark of sports and remedial massage, is reported to produce significant increases in skeletal muscle blood flow but no research has been done to back this up.