There are many similarities between sports massage and deep tissue massage. Similar techniques and strokes are utilised by the clinicians in both, with a more substantial pressure and depth of touch also employed in each.

The primary difference is that a sports massage tends to be somewhat more specific in its tissue selection, its aim, and its intent with regard to effecting an entire kinetic chain or neuromuscular system. The clinician will perform sports massage in tissues of palpably tight soft tissues (muscles, tendons etc.), with this soft tissue restriction often manifesting clinically as reduced joint range of motion, reduced power output, and/or pain. All of these presentations will impair athletic function and performance levels, and are therefore targeted by the physiotherapist during the massage. As a result, the specific aim of the massage will typically reflect the underlying issue and resultant performance impairment initially identified by the clinician.

How Does A Sports Massage Work?
Sports massage relies on the most basic and long-standing skills of the physiotherapist, that of using their hands to treat the human body. A sports massage aims to restore normal soft tissue health and function by eradicating any knots, bands of tightness, or adhesions in a tissue. These adhesions are often palpable, and can be subjectively described by the athlete as feeling “tight” or “knotted”. These adhesions can develop for many reasons – high training volume (especially training or a repetitive nature), trauma (“dead leg”, muscle tear etc), muscular imbalance, poor biomechanics, or poorly designed training programmes.

The therapist, using sports massage, seeks to realign muscle fibers deep within the muscle by manipulating the skin and muscle at various angles and depths, for various periods of time. This manipulation will not only reduce adhesions, but will also increase localised circulation and encourage clearance of any toxins, such as lactic acid, accumulated locally.

Why See A Physiotherapist For A Sports Massage?
Seeing a physiotherapist for a sports massage ensures a thorough, holistic consideration of the presenting condition. Our physiotherapists base treatment on a consideration of the body of a whole, as well as factors pertaining to the individuals’ specific sport, profession and lifestyle. Simple treatment of pain is too narrow an approach considering all the information and research available to the therapist. A cause and effect relationship is identified by the physiotherapist, so that the patient can be advised on steps to take to alleviate the underlying cause of symptoms. Biomechanical and postural factors, both areas of expertise of the physiotherapist, are closely considered, as is their interaction with the patient’s training plan. Importantly, lifestyle factors are also closely considered – does the patient sit for prolonged periods at work, does the patient use specific muscles repeatedly while undertaking additional hobbies besides their sporting interests etc. In the healthcare sector, a physiotherapist is the individual most qualified to undertake this complete assessment of the patient.

“Treatment” vs. “Maintenance” Sports Massage
Sports massage can typically be sought for either of the above. Many of our patients will train or exercise consistently on an independent basis, and will attend our clinic for a sports massage once they begin to feel any physical symptoms of tightness, or performance impairment.

At K.M. Woods Physiotherapy, however, we also have regular patients who attend on a frequent basis for sports massage, even when not symptomatic or experiencing reduced performance levels. Such regular, “maintenance” sports massage essentially maintains tissue suppleness & function, thereby reducing the likelihood of injuries actually occurring in the first place.

Is A Sports Massage Only For Athletes?
Not at all. At K.M. Woods Physiotherapy, we often treat patients with sports massage, even though they do not undertake any consistent exercise. These patients typically present with various aches and pains stemming from their lifestyle or postural habits – those who sit behind a desk for hours daily or those who work on low work surfaces for prolonged periods. Sports massage serves to reduce painful tightness in muscles that have become tight from lack of movement or overuse in these cases for example.

Will A Sports Massage Be Painful?
Quite often, a certain amount of pressure is required to achieve the desired effect when administering a sports massage. If a greater amount of depth and force is required, this can sometimes prove uncomfortable for the patient. This if often dictated by the depth of the adhesion, the volume of muscle bulk being dealt with, and the general body shape and size of the patient.