In a previous article on sports massage, we talked about three key principles that distinguish this type of massage from classic, relaxing, general, and many others. Today we would like to discuss in detail the third principle, the essence of which is to correctly determine the goal of therapy – improving mobility, flexibility, stability or neural connections, that is, control of the central nervous system over the musculoskeletal system.
Mobility is the maximum available range of motion in a particular joint, which in orthopedics is usually measured in degrees. For example, the amplitude of movement in the shoulder joint when moving the arm to the side is normal 90 degrees. If your client does not exceed 70 degrees, the main task is to find out why.
Flexibility is an indicator of tissue extensibility. To assess it, a bilateral examination should be carried out, answering to himself such questions: “Do the muscles of the back of the thigh of the right leg look exactly the same as the left?”
Stability is ensured by full-fledged neuromuscular control, which is impossible in case of violation of the position of certain joints. The degree of neuromuscular control is an indicator of the effectiveness of the connection between the human body and the brain. Calcaneal spurs, protrusions, hernias of the intervertebral discs, fascial adhesions, and joint displacement can interfere with the normal conductivity of signals coming from the brain to muscles or joints, which is why compensation mechanisms come into play. A sports massage therapist should consider all these aspects at the stage of diagnosis.
Periodization is our everything. Periodization is the fourth principle of sports massage. When I worked and traveled around the country with a professional baseball player, I always had to be attentive to changes in the needs of his body in different periods – during the pre-season preparation, the season itself and immediately after it. In the pre-season period, your task is to prepare the athlete for performance, to help him unleash the full potential of the body. During the season, a sports masseur treats various injuries and maintains the client’s body in shape, since during this period the load on the body is very high, and without your help it will be difficult for an athlete. After the end of the season, we usually encounter injuries caused by overstrain and repetitive movements.
Periodization can also be called the timing of the massage session – before the performance within one season or after it. Right before the performance, you should not use aggressive techniques that can change the balance of the length and tension of the athlete’s muscles – this will only increase the likelihood of injury. Before the performance, the massage therapist should pay attention to improving blood circulation and use techniques such as compression and shocking. Athlete’s tissues need to be warmed up, made more pliable. After the performance, your task is to help the athlete’s body in the recovery process. Techniques such as long, expanding stroking, striking, squeezing (medium depth) or kneading are great for this — these techniques improve the lymph flow, which is very important after heavy physical exertion.
Do not make assumptions. The fifth principle of sports massage is impartiality. Even if you work with a very famous athlete, never make assumptions regarding his health before starting work. Diagnose before the first session. Ask the athlete if he has any health complaints and what he wants to achieve with massage. Chat with him during the session. Many athletes know their body very well – do not forget this, consult with them and actively connect them to the massage process.
How should a sports massage be held in your office, clinic or at home? Find out what stage the training or competition cycle is in. Carry out a diagnosis and identify all violations and deviations – it does not matter if the athlete complained about them or not. When choosing a technique, rely on the results of visual diagnosis, and not just palpation. Pay attention to posture, the aggregate characteristics of the athlete’s body movements, his gait – all this will help you understand the causes of certain complaints. Do massage, carry out diagnostics again, then massage again, then diagnostics again, and so on until all problems of the athlete are resolved.
Keep in touch with the athlete constantly to understand how successful the choice of a particular strategy has been and to schedule additional sessions if necessary. Sports massage differs from classical massage in that it constantly goes beyond the scope of the massage room – you literally get involved in the athlete’s life, help him or her on the way. Mastering all aspects of sports massage requires many years of practice and hard study of the theory, but all this will give its result.