You’re playing like you’ve never played before. Running faster. Jumping higher. Diving deeper. But are you taking care of your body? Do you know if you’re at risk for an injury? Or are you already injured, and playing through the pain? Whether you’re an elite athlete or enjoy sports recreationally, consider adding sports massage to your wellness routine. A massage therapist can pinpoint your body’s tight and weak areas and bring you some much-needed relaxation and healing. Still not convinced that massage is right for you? Weigh the benefits so you can make an educated decision.
By manipulating the tissues and muscles you use the most, a massage therapist can decrease stiffness and soreness so that you don’t have to work it out on the court or on the field. Sports massage can increase your flexibility and range of motion, which can make you less prone to injury. Massage can also reduce muscle fatigue and help muscles heal from the stresses of vigorous activity. Tired muscles may be more prone to injury than muscles that have been allowed to recover from intense work. What’s the moral of the story? Regular sports massage can decrease recovery time between workouts while increasing the rate at which your body can improve at your chosen sport.
If you’re already injured, you can add sports massage therapy to your healing regimen. Just make sure you’ve got your doctor’s approval, and that your massage therapist understands your injury and any resulting range-of-motion limitations. Massage may not be appropriate immediately after an injury, but it can be vital in helping you regain peak performance once the acute phase has passed. Massage increases blood flow to the manipulated area, which can help strained muscles heal. Sports massage can also help you regain lost range of motion gently and incrementally-unlike forcing your body to do what it once could, which can result in injury recurrence or even worsening.
Many athletes fail to take into account the psychological benefits of sports massage. The sense of calm and well-being imparted during a massage can help you focus and get into the mind-set to compete. Beyond that, regular massage can lead to increased body awareness. A trained massage therapist can point out muscle weaknesses and imbalances that you may not even realize exist-and once you’re aware of these issues, you can take steps to correct them through strength training, stretching, or targeted massage. Understanding your body, including how it works best, any bad habits you fall into, and when to seek help with an issue, will only make you a stronger competitor.