10 Things to Know Before Getting a Sports Massage
Want to make the most of your appointment or unsure on what to expect?
Find out my top tips here...
1. Arrive Well Hydrated
A hydrated body makes your muscles easier to work with during a massage, so make sure you are sipping adequate amounts of H2O before your appointment. Dehydration can stiffen the fascia and muscles, which translates to a more painful massage.
2. Keep that Pre-Appointment Meal Light
Save that heavy meal for post-session, or feast at least three hours before your massage. Aside from the obvious discomfort of lying face down with a full belly, massage naturally slows down your body systems, including the digestive process. This means overeating right beforehand will likely make you feel lethargic.
3. What Do I Wear?
A Sports Massage Therapist will work deep within the muscles. The more they can see of your physique and are able to reach the muscles that have the issue, the better they will be able to treat you. Ideally, please wear as little around the area to be treated as possible. For example, loose fitting shorts for work on the legs. Your therapist will guide you as to if, for example, you may need to remove your top for work on the upper body. They will drape you with towels to ensure comfort, only exposing areas that are being worked on.
Clothing is easily removable
You can pull it up or out of the way for treatment
Your therapist can observe the muscles you are having trouble with, as well as those surrounding them
Clothing is thin and/or loose fitting
For women and treatment on the back - wearing a bra that undoes at the back is much easier and more comfortable for you, rather than a sports bra that you have to take off completely
Remember these tips so that you can get the most out of your massage!
4. It's Typical for Your Therapist to Ask You Questions
Before your session, your therapist will ask you questions in order to obtain information regarding lifestyle, medical history and your reason for attending. This overview ensures your goals are best met, whilst safe to do so. It is important to make sure you are suitable for treatment and/or if any adaptations or referrals need to be made. Along with understanding your goals, a short physical assessment will help identify causes for your current symptoms and assist in tailoring your treatment plan for the session.
5. Pain Does Not Always Equal Gain
Massage does not have to hurt to be beneficial. Communicate with your therapist and establish an agreed discomfort level that you are prepared to work to. Better therapy occurs when you are not bracing against the therapist. Too little pressure creates minimal improvement in the body's structures, however too much pressure can make you tense up. There is a fine line between discomfort and pain and it is unique to each individual. Breathing is key. So, if you find yourself in too much discomfort, let your therapist know. It is your body, your session, your outcome.
6. Soreness is Normal
Feeling a little tender after a sports massage is completely normal and on the whole, means it is working. Within 48 hours, the tightness should dissipate and you may even feel like you are in a new body. The soreness you feel is a physical response to the mild inflammation as your body heals. There will have been an increased blood flow and nutrients to your muscles, whilst eliminating toxins. Your muscles are being manipulated in ways that they might not be used to, so just like after heavy exercise, the soft tissues can feel the effects and need time to repair. It usually takes 24-48 hours to feel the full effect of a sports massage, after which you should feel comfortable, rejuvenated and refreshed.
7. Don't Turn Up to a Sports Massage If...
You are dealing with a serious injury and don’t have a diagnosis
Whilst a Sports Massage Therapist can identify and attempt to alleviate any tightness and inflammation in the body, it is not part of our discipline to diagnose. If a problem area does not feel significantly better three days post-massage, you should seek/be referred to specialist treatment and support, such as from a physiotherapist. Once a diagnosis is given, we can work with that information and use massage as a helpful tool in recovery.
You are taking pain relievers or muscle relaxers
The types of medication your therapist would be concerned about you taking before your massage are any that alter your sense of touch or impair your judgement. This can make it difficult for you to give your therapist accurate feedback. Some blood-thinning medication can also leave you more susceptible to bruising. If you have an ongoing condition that requires medication, be sure to talk to your massage therapist about it. If necessary, this enables them to modify the treatment to protect your health and safety.
You are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
You will be refused treatment if visibly intoxicated or under the influence. You will be desensitised and your judgement impaired, making it difficult for both you and your massage therapist to judge the best level of pressure and for you to give reliable feedback. Both massage and alcohol have a dehydrating effect. Whilst massage strengthens the body’s immune system, drinking too much weakens the body’s immune system. This means you lose this important health benefit of massage, essentially cancelling out the positive effect.
You have a fever or are sick
It is important to prevent spreading infection and cross contamination. Your body is already working hard to recover. A massage would only place more demands on your body internally when you are meant to be resting.
8. When is a Good Time to Get a Massage?
Every person reacts differently to a massage, so you don't want to find out the day before an important event that deep tissue work makes you uncomfortably sore. Technically, you can work out the same day after getting a sports massage, but it's not recommended. Doing so is counterproductive and it is important to give your body enough time to properly repair itself and experience the benefits of your sports massage. Let your body process what has just happened.
There are different techniques used in sports massage to benefit you pre-event, post-event or for maintenance and working on issues. Discussing your goals with your therapist is essential in order to achieve the right outcome for your body at that time.
This is the most common type of treatment and what you would expect to receive when booking a sports massage appointment. The session is specifically tailored to each individual's needs, addressing any current concerns and working deeper to help resolve any issues in targeted problem areas.
A shorter, light and stimulating massage within 24 hours of an event can really help optimise your performance. Not only does it help prepare you physically in addition to a warm up, there are psychological benefits too. It is great for calming your nerves, making you feel both relaxed and confident. The sensory awareness that massage gives you makes you feel more in your body and gets your head in the game.
The emphasis on this type of massage is relaxation and recovery. As close to the end of an event, or up to 72 hours after, a slow, slightly deeper massage of up to 30 minutes is given to the general exerted area, such as the legs. This aids the removal of waste products, relaxes the muscles, speeds up recovery and reduces pain and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
9. It is Not a Spa Session
Even though you should come away feeling relaxed, be prepared to move around at times and interact physically with your therapist. You will also most likely be given stretches to incorporate into your treatment when at home.
10. How Often Should I Get a Massage?
Book a regular maintenance massage to keep your muscles in good health. How long you should go between treatments depends on the frequency and intensity of your training sessions; but don't leave it too long between massages, otherwise progress will be slow. This will be something your therapist will discuss with you and will depend on your current goals, issues and activity level.
If you have a big event such as a marathon or race coming up, consider incorporating massage into your training plan. A session once a week, for the few weeks leading up to an event, can be good for the muscles to relax and calm the nervous system. It will also help identify any issues with overtraining, weak areas to work on and aid your performance overall.