From not warming up correctly, falling prey to an accident or simply pushing yourself too hard, there are many ways to get a sports injury. For exercise enthusiasts recovering from sports injury, often needing to stay off your feet and rest, and returning to full function is very important.
Sports massage is useful in these cases. A sports massage therapist is there to make sure you recover as swiftly and completely as possible. Offering care to all sports and recreational participants there is much that a sports massage therapist can do to help you maintain your body in the best shape it can be.
This page is to give information so you can know how a sports massage practitioner can help you with your injury or rehabilitation needs.
What is sports massage?
Though commonly considered to be only for professional athletes, sports massage is suitable for anyone suffering from a sport or exercise related injury. Distinct from the often linked physiotherapy though they do use some of the same massage techniques, sports massage focuses on injuries around sports and similar activities and getting people back into their favourite sporting pursuits.
How is sports massage different from other massage?Using Sports Science a trained therapist will use a variety of methods, such as massage or myofascial release, to help with treatment and rehabilitation of injuries, as well as offering support and advice to prevent injuries and how to get the best out of your body.
The Society of Sports Therapists considers a sports therapist to be a professional with the training, skills and experience to do a range of tasks around the treatment and prevention of sports related injuries.
This includes, using sports and exercise principles to optimise performance, offering treatment of injuries, providing sport and remedial massage for sports and exercise related issues, and to plan and implement appropriate rehabilitation programs, as well as offering basic life support for recreation, training and/or exercise contexts.
They should also have the training to know when to refer patients to medical specialists when necessary for treatment.
Common sporting injuries
As sport can put strain on specific parts of your body, if you play sports regularly you can become prone to various types of injury. Though this in no way takes away from the health benefits of sports and exercise, being aware of common injures is important, so you can more easily avoid them.
If you feel any problems, from pain to joint stiffness, when exercising or participating in a sport or similar activity it is a good idea to have it checked out, so minor issues can be treated before they become major problems. This list is so you can be aware of the more common sportinjuries and what may lead to a risk of them happening.
Though most of us will experience some form of back pain during our life, spine injuries are some of the most potentially dangerous and lifestyle threatening injuries that sport and exercise can cause. The most common sports related back injuries are muscle strains and ligaments sprains.
Though these injuries can be the result of some form of trauma, over-use and insufficient or poor stretching are more commonly the causes of back pain.
A more serious injury that is more common in people who participate in sports is spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis. Injuries that effect the vertebra pars interarticularis, a small part of the vertebra between the inferior and superior articular processes of the facet joint, are called spondylolysis.
The second of these common injuries is the displacement of a vertebra in relation to another/s. This form of injury is most common in sports that require the twisting, stretching and hyper-extension of the spine, which includes activities such as gymnastics or dance.
Another common problem area for exercisers is the feet and ankles. Most commonly this would be ankle sprains, this is more likely with people who do significant amounts of running and/or jumping. Turf toe is another common problem for those who participate in sports on artificial turf. This injury is characterized by pain at the base of the big toe. Rarer is breaks or fractures, but they can be caused by trauma or over use of an injured area.
What is knees pain
Knee problems are very common for many people at some stage during their life, but exercise can increase the risk of certain types of knee injury. There are many potential possible injuries that create knee pain and it is vital to find the underlying cause so future injury risk can be reduced, if at all possible.
Causes of knee pain can include arthritis, ligament and cartilage injuries, meniscal tears, tendonitis and, especially in the case of trauma, a dislocated kneecap. Many of these require careful care otherwise permanent injury can occur.
What is hip injuries
With the hip joint being involved in many of our bodies movements it can be a common area for injury. These injuries are typically joint inflammation and muscle strains. Like many other injuries these are typically caused by overexertion and trauma. Stress fractures are another potential issue, this injury is more common in high impact sports, such as long distance running.
What is wrist injuries
If the sport you are involved in requires wrist movement, such as tennis or basketball, injuries to the wrist can occur. This would typically include strains, sprains and tendonitis but chronic disorders such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome can also cause problems.
What is elbow pain
Like with the wrists, sports that necessitate large amounts of arm movement can leave you prone to elbow pain. Of these tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is probably the most well known, a condition causing pain in the outer joint, which can also affect the sufferer’s ability to grip objects. Though linked to tennis it is actually rarely caused by that sport.
Other common injuries to the elbow include fractures, usually from trauma, and nerve compression, typically radial tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome. Like many other joint problems, untreated elbow pain can become a recurring problems, negatively affecting your ability to participate in sporting activities, as well as potentially causing long term injury.
What is shoulder pain symptoms
As a complex and almost constantly used area of the body, the shoulder, especially the rotary cuff, is prone to tears and tendonitis. Mobility issues are also common, with frozen shoulder, a stiffening of the joint that can severely impact mobility, and shoulder instability, where the joint becomes unsupported and prone to injury, particularly dislocations.
What can a sports massage therapist do for me?
Like any medical professional dealing with injuries and rehabilitation, a sports massage London qualified therapist will likely need several appointments to fully treat your injury. Each professional has their own way of doing things but will typically follow these steps.
This initial consultation will include your medical history, lifestyle and previous treatments for this, and other, injuries. Essentially this is the sports massage therapist getting to know why you are there and any background that would affect your treatment.
With detailed information your therapist can more easily treat you and tailor that treatment for the goals you are trying to achieve. This is a good time to become more acquainted with your therapist and to enquire as to their experience and qualifications.
After the initial consultation the therapist can now assess you injury,and determine a treatment plan suitable for you. This assessment may include physical evaluations such as posture, functional movement and ligament stability tests. If you have not yet gotten an official diagnosis from a doctor, you will typically be referred to one to get that official diagnosis. At this point treatment can begin.
Once a treatment plan has been agreed upon, your sports massage treatment can be started by your therapist. The range of available treatments can be extensive and most sports therapists will take a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. If you have any questions on what a particular treatment entails make sure to bring it up with your therapist.
This is a step not always necessary for minor injuries but depending on the severity of your problem may be required to achieve a full recovery. At its base rehabilitation is aimed at returning you to as close as you can get to your pre injury levels of movement, pain and strength.
Your therapist should be able to give advice and tips on how to manage your injury in day to day life, as well as offering forms of rehabilitation treatment.
Prehabilitation and injury prevention
This term refers to methods to keep you from suffering future injuries. Prehabilitation typically includes advice and exercises from your sports massage therapist, to attempt to stop similar injuries in the future.
What treatments do sports massage therapist use?
To reduce pain and encourage recovery there are a number of different techniques used by sports massage therapists. While the treatments used are influenced by your history and the specific characteristics of your injury several of the major treatment methods include the following.
A common treatment available from sports massage therapists, sports massage, as well as remedial massage, can be used to reduce the pain caused by training, increase to muscle blood flow and can also be useful in treating soft-tissue injuries.
There are many numerous massage techniques that are commonly used which can include the following.
• Effleurage: Light massage strokes to loosen the muscles. This will typically be used at the beginning of a massage before deeper work is started.
• Petrissage: This technique, typically to increase blood flow and loosen muscles, uses a kneading motion on soft-tissue to remove knots.
• Tapotement: Used tokick start’ the nervous system and to encourage lymphatic drainage, this technique is rhythmic movements, typically using the edge of the hand or finger tips.
• Neuromuscular techniques: Designed to stop pain caused by muscle spasms, this technique will use concentrated pressure on muscle areas.
• Positional release: A specialised technique, this method has the therapist locate a tender joint and then moving it into a position where the pain and tension can be ‘released’. This technique can also be used on tendons and ligaments.
Soft tissue mobilisation
Another form of manual therapy, mobilisation is a method to help restore movement and help with issues that reduce motion in injured joints. Lack of treatment for joint dysfunction can cause muscle spasms, pain and fatigue. This typically includes the therapist gently moving the joint within the joint’s typical range of motion.
When using this form of therapy it must be both targeted and gently done, as such only a qualified professional should attempt it.
Myofascial connective tissue release
Myofascial release, sometimes called soft tissue mobilisation, is used to release tension build up in the fascia. The fascia are the sheets of fibrous tissue that surround muscles and is what separates them into groups. Trauma causes the fascia to shorten, which restricts movement and blood flow.
As such myofascial release techniques attempt to break up adhesions and relax muscle tension, reducing pain and allowing a normal range of movement once more.
Used by some sports therapists, electrotherapy includes several treatments including TENS and laser treatment. TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machines are used to transmit a small electric charge into the muscles from a skin patch. This form of treatment helps with specific types of injury and can be used with painkillers or, in some cases instead of.
To encourage healing and to facilitate increased blood flow, heat and cold treatments would be used. Cold treatments (a type of cyrotherapy, which can include a range of treatments) involve using a cold compress/es on an injury to reduce inflammation and swelling. After the acute injury phase, usually 48-72 hours after the injury occurred, heat treatments may be used to ease pain.
What should I look for in a sports massage therapist?
Currently there are no legal regulations for sports massage therapists in the UK, however there is currently a push by several professional organisations to create these regulations so this is subject to change. Sadly this means that there are no laws around what level of training or experience someone must have to be able to call themselves a sports massage therapist.
So how can you make sure you are seeing a trained professional? There are several voluntary regulatory bodies that sports therapists can registers with. These bodies (like the Embodyforyou or Complemetary Natural Healthcare Council) necessitate a certain level of training for therapists and include a code of ethics and complaints procedures that members are bound to follow.
So finding out about these organisations and if the therapist you want to see is a member should be a priority for any potential patient. Checking for reviews and other word of mouth may also be useful.