The history of sports massage therapy dates back to 1812, when a fencing master named Pehr Henrik Ling first combined elements of a traditional Swedish massage with remedial exercises: creating a technique he called kinesiotherapy. Widely used by athletes throughout Europe, sports massage was little known in the U.S. until the 1970’s, gaining attention in part due to an incredible performance by Lasse Virén during the ’72 Summer Games in Munich.
Modern sports massage therapy begin over 40 years ago when a physician named James Cyriax, often called the father of orthopedic medicine, create a series of deep-friction massage techniques, some of which are still in use today.
Sports massage therapy utilizes three basic techniques.
- Effleurage – A technique involves a series of gentle stroking and touching movements in order to improve circulation, stimulate nerves and to warm and relax muscles. Employed during the beginning of a massage session, effleurage allows the recipient to ease into the session gently.
- Petrissage – Also known as ‘kneading,’ this is a more intense technique used to stretch and elongate muscle tissue and to alleviate tension.
- Friction – A therapy designed to benefit transverse-connective tissues, this technique utilizes oscillating pressure that is applied by the fingers across the direction of tissue fibers in order address tendon or ligament injuries and to break down scar tissue.
Sports massage therapy is used to improve physical performance, alleviate pain and discomfort, reduce the risk of future injury and to help shorten the recovery time associated with a variety of common injuries.
Sports massage therapy promotes improved cardiovascular function. Direct stimulation of the muscles produces a histamine release which increases the permeability of the capillaries and causes localized vasodilation. This effects of this release, coupled with direct manual assistance of venous return, increases circulation and slows heart rate. Massage strokes also force fluid into lymphatic capillaries, increasing drainage and allowing the body to more effectively rid itself of cellular wastes. Sports massage therapy also decreases the inflammation caused by injury or exertion.
Relaxing and stretching muscles and working directly with tendons and ligaments where scar tissue may be present improves flexibility and optimizes range of motion- key concerns in terms of athletic performance. Sports massage can even promote more aggressive growth of mitochondria, the organelle within cells responsible for producing energy, speeding recovery times and ensuring the body is more adept to withstand the rigors of intensive athletic activity.
How to Prepare for Sports Medicine Massage:
Drink plenty of water to ensure proper hydration. Taking a hot shower before your massage session may also be a good idea as it will aid in muscle relaxation. Loose fitting and comfortable clothing is the proper choice of attire for a sports massage.