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Sports Massage

The sports massage is a variation of the classic Swedish massage, and is intended to improve the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: October 3, 2013

Not an Olympian? Not to worry, because despite its name, sports massages aren't just for Kobe Bryant (though he supposedly gets them daily). The sports massage was originally designed for athletes who wanted to prepare for, or recover from, sporting events. But it's a good healing technique for anyone with chronic pain, a recent injury of muscles and tendons, or difficulty moving their limbs.

Sports massages isolate a specific issue, like a tender knee or faulty shoulder. (Keep in mind that if you get a sports massage for your knee, you won't be getting a whole body rubdown.)

The sports massage is a variation of the classic Swedish massage, and is intended to improve the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body. The main difference between the two is that the sports massage adds ""trigger point therapy,"" which is meant to break up knots in the body, relieve aches, and increase range of motion. (Knot removal is also typical during deep tissue massages).

The origins of Sports Massage: Sports massage as currently practice had its orirgins in an unusual place: equine massage. Jack Meagher, who became the official horse massage therapist of the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team in 1970, also massaged the humans on the team too.

Soon, other athletes came to Meagher, and the massage therapist developed and publicized his sports massage method. Meagher identifed 12 athletic postures and how they strained the human body.

Sports massage both helps prepare the body to endure sports-related muscle strain and relieve the effects on athletics on the body.

Benefits Of Sports Massage

If you do happen to run marathons or jump hurdles, there are sports massages designed specifically for athletes, and they can be broken down into four different categories-pre-event, post-event, restorative, and rehabilitative sports massages.

What To Expect

A sports massage experience depends on the type of sports massage you receive. Some sports massages are pre-event rubdowns. These tend to be short and vigorous and designed to increase blood flow and msucle performance and resemble a Swedish massage.

Other sports massages are given directly after a hard workout or sporting event. Still others are meant to rehabilitate sports injuries. These masages involve deeper pressure and can be uncomfortable. You will typically wear loose, comfortable clothing during a sports massage.

While you will normally lie down on a padded table, your therapist may ask you to sit up or stand in order to better access part of your body. No oil is used on the skin.

Specialized equipment: Sports massage uses no special equipment.

Recommended sessions: One session can be useful for performance or recovery, though a longstanding physical condition or injury may benefit from continued sessions.

Preparation: Make sure you tell the massage therapist why you are getting the sports massage (pre-event performance, recovery, injury treatment). This will affect the techniques your therapist uses.

You should also tell your therapist what type of sports or workout you do and the location and nature of any injuries, sports-related or not.


If athletes have unhealed injuries like broken bones, a sports massage can actually make those injuries worse.

Who wouldn't benefit: If you are primarily focused on relaxation and stress relief, you may wish to opt for a different massage type. Do not get a very deep sports massage before a sporting event, as this can cause muscle soreness that will interfere with athletic performance.

Celebrity Devotees

Virtually all well-known athletes have received sports massage at some point in their careers, as sports massage therapists tend to travel with teams.

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