Patient Care

Sports Massage and Bodywork for Athletes

Massage not only feels good, but can also provide an edge for sports training and performance. All athletes look for a way to help them train more effectively, perform better and overcome injuries more quickly. Sports massage techniques deliver for both the professional and amateur athlete.

Regular sports massage can:

  • Reduce the chance of injury by relieving stress points in muscles before they result in restrictions or spasm.
  • Improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance.
  • Shorten recovery time between workouts.
  • Maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow.
  • Facilitate the body's regular processes for recovery from exercise.
  • Decrease performance anxiety and sharpen mental focus. 

The overall objective of massage, when included in a training program, is to help an athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training. Pre-event massage is used to supplement an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation, improve tissue pliability and reduce muscle and mental tension prior to competition. Post-event massage, on the other hand, is aimed at reducing muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with strenuous exercise.

Since each sport or athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way, good sports massage therapists are familiar with each muscle, and how each muscle group is affected by the particular stresses of each sport.

"At National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), our massage students must complete an anatomy course with dissected cadavers, so that they gain a three-dimensional understanding of the muscles and ligaments they'll be working on when they treat clients," says Dr. Patricia Coe, D.C., C.M.T. who is an instructor in NUHS' massage therapy program.

It's important that sports massage therapists have appropriate training in what not to do as well. For example, they know to encourage circulation around a bruise but not directly on it, unless appropriate medical diagnosis indicates there are no clots that could embolize.

There are several techniques that may be used or combined by a sports massage therapist, including: deep Swedish massage, compression, cross-fiber massage, trigger point or lymphatic massage. In a broad-scope care clinic like the health center at NUHS, sports massage can also be integrated with chiropractic care, physical rehabilitation, nutrition and acupuncture.

Sam Cahill is currently training for his second Chicago marathon. "Last year I had massage a few times while I trained but still had trouble with iliotibial band friction syndrome and also Achilles tendonitis. This year I upped the massage to once a month in early training and once a week now that I'm up to 50 miles per week. Both conditions are no longer a problem."

In fact, Cahill says that regular massage at NUHS has helped him with recovery time allowing him to run more miles and train more intensely. "Last year I couldn't run as often because I was always sore and tired. Massage has really allowed me to be better prepared for this year's marathon."

"The NUHS clinic offers pre-participation physicals, post-injury care and prevention testing to ensure the participant is able to be involved in the sport. Complete rehab for post-injury or pre-participation conditioning services are also available," says Jeffrey Bergin, D.C., dean of clinics at NUHS.

NUHS will provide massage and chiropractic services at the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Sam Cahill says, "Since I'm already a client, I'll probably stop at the tent when I'm done and have a massage, and then schedule at least one more during the following week."

To schedule a sports massage or a consultation with a physician about your training or rehabilitation program, contact a National University of Health Sciences Whole Health Center.

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