Here at Chorlton Personal Training we also offer a Sports Massage service.
Our Sports Massage service is very popular with the local Track and Field athletes at Trafford Athletics Club.
Bearing this in mind, it is worth noting that, as a general rule, athletes tend to have a hard core mentality when it comes to Sports Massage. That is, most athletes take the philosophy that the more painful the massage, the better.
So why is that belief so widespread?
Is it correct?
Should an effective Sports Massage be painful?
First off, it is worth pointing out that pain is certainly not the end goal. As a Sports Massage practitioner, it would be ridiculous for me to simply chase pain for pains sake.
The end goal is to effect a change in the athlete.
Now if the athlete is just a little tired, and carrying a little extra muscular tension at the end of a heavy block of training, then the change we are looking for is more of a return to the athletes normal state of "homeostasis". In this instance, a lighter massage that does not induce much pain may be just the ticket.
Lighter recovery massages may go hand in hand with other recovery modalities such as easy jogging, swimming, walking, cold water immersion or contrast bathing (to name just a few). Different athletes may find differing recovery modalities suit them best. So experiment here, and use whatever method makes you feel good.
However, if an athlete has knotted muscles, poor mobility and chronic tightness, then a more aggressive approach to sports massage may be required.
In particular, if we are dealing with chronic muscle tightness and we are trying to increase muscle length through sports massage and stretching, then we need to view these areas of athletic preparation in the same light as we would with any other type of physical training.
One of the key principles of fitness training is the principle of overload. In order to adhere to the principle of overload, you must subject your body to a stimulus that it is not accustomed to. Generally speaking, this means subjecting the body to a certain level of discomfort.
If you are looking to improve muscle length and flexibility, you need to adhere to the principle of overload in just the same way as you would if you were training for increased strength or muscle mass. This means your sports massage and stretching programme is probably going to be at a level of intensity that results in discomfort or even pain.
Now don't get me wrong. It is not necessary to be all macho about sports massage and induce as much pain as possible. But, a manageable level of pain or discomfort is actually a useful barometer so that the athlete and sports massage practitioner know that the pressure level is about right.
As the athletes muscular system adapts over time in response to sports massage, the same level of applied pressure (by the sports massage practitioner) will result in less discomfort. This decrease in discomfort or pain is a sign of adaptation. Just the same as when it feels easier for an athlete to complete a running route in a certain time. That is a sign of adaptation.
So a skilled Sports Massage Practitioner will gradually increase the applied pressure over time, and can use athlete feedback about pain and discomfort to ensure that the massage is at an appropriate level to continue providing an overload stimulus for that athlete.