Can massage really replace your voltaren? YES – it all depends on the reason you’re taking pain relief. In many cases, those ongoing training aches, pains and niggles can be soothed away with some good ‘ol massage.
Pain-free muscles during training means you are less likely to injure and more likely actually make it to, and finish, your event!
Key benefits of regular sports massage for athletes
- Soothes the pain of training – eases the pain from ongoing niggles, achy muscles and joints
- Speeds up your recovery – well-conditioned muscles = better circulation = quicker processing of the by-products of training = quicker recovery
- Decreases your chance of injury – massage releases and conditions muscles and joints = greater function = less injury / plus your therapist gets to know your body so they can pick up issues before they get bad
- Increases the efficiency and speed of your training – massage loosens stiff joints and tight muscles – this increases the efficiency and power output from your body - freer joints mean more range of a particular movement - eg increased range in your hips = better glute activation = efficient training gait = faster run
How is sports massage different from the guys at the mall or a beauty therapist?
Sports massage is a specialized type of massage where your therapist understands your sport, the effects on your body and the level and type of training you do. A sports therapist will have at least 1-2 years of qualification and, ideally, a few years of experience.
The treatment is more than just a rub down – sports therapists look at manipulating the soft tissue of muscles, tendons and fascia on specific areas of your body. They use a variety of techniques including trigger point therapy, myofascial release, active-release and stretching to get the results needed. The aim is to free muscles and joints to increase your range of movement and improve your circulation and biomechanics. This helps prevent injury and aids recovery.
When you are running and cycling, your main powerhouse is the hips, as you are constantly using your legs. Therefore, a massage should be focused almost entirely on the lower half of your body.
Ideally, with regular treatment, your therapist will get to know your body so well they can pick up potential injuries before you even realize there is a problem. This is when sports massage really turns to gold. Regular massage will also maintain your muscle condition in the best possible form.
How to find a good therapist and get the most out of your money
All therapists are definitely NOT the same – use caution in choosing where you spend your hard earned cash.
Here are our hot tips to follow:
- Qualifications – at least 1-2 years, diploma level and above – ask before booking
- Experience – how long have they been practicing for? Ideally over 2-3 years. Ask if they have worked with runners before – if yes, what level or type? Have they worked with people training for your specific sport?
- During the massage your therapist should explain what they plan to do and why, the treatment should mainly focus on the part of your body you use the most for your sport, e.g. lower body for runners, but might include lower back and neck for a cyclist, and shoulders for a kayaker.
- Your therapist should ask you about your injury history, health history, training, your days off, level of training, event goals etc so they know how to work their treatment into your plan.
- If you have gone to a therapist with a specific issue or injury they should refer you after 3 treatments if no progress has been made. Beware if you feel like no progress is happening speak up – you are the client and have a right to ask about treatment plans and expected outcomes.
- Ask if they work with a network of other professionals like Physios, Osteos, GPs, Nutritionists, Coaches etc – this shows they are not afraid to ask for help and can look after you in a big picture way
- Negotiate to make it affordable – if you find an hour quite pricey, do half-hour sessions on specific issues. If weekly or fortnightly is not possible, then do less now and increase the frequency as your training load increases.
- Learn self-massage techniques – the more you can do yourself the better – get a foam roller, it will be the best spent $60 of your training! A foam roller and a tennis ball should become your best friends!
- Stretch Daily!! It will help offload some of the impact of all your training and mean you can get away with less massage
Here are some of our favorite self-massage techniques to get you started:
|IT Band Massage:
Use your hands and top foot to off load some of your weight, roll from hip to knee and back.
Roll from top of hips down to knees, focus weight on one quad at a time.
Roll your weight into the left hip with left ankle over right knee.
|Upper Back Stretch:
Place the roller at each vertebrae and gently stretch backwards, move up or down your spine.
Roll from your sit bones downwards