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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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Mobile Sports Massage

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Today, I’d like to discuss why booking a mobile sports massage might be the best preparation you make for your next competition.

Kansas City is full of athletes of both the professional, and amateur varieties. Whether you play in the NFL, a neighborhood league, or just want to improve your performance on your solo workouts, properly warming up and stretching your muscles can give you a competitive edge.

Football players can benefit from a mobile sports massage.
A mobile sports massage can improve your performance.

What is a Sports Massage?

There are some common misconceptions about sports massage. The average client assumes that because they are athletic, a massage therapist treats their body differently.

This is not the case. A sports massage has very specific goals, techniques, and is performed at specific times before a competition.

Goals

Every athlete understands the importance of warming up and stretching muscles before a workout or game. A proper pre-game warm up can help prevent injuries and improve muscle efficiency.

The primary goal of a sports massage is manual warm up and activation of muscles. Using a massage therapist saves your energy for the actual competition. It’s sort of like using an extra battery to save your own internal power for later. This is can be especially helpful for endurance athletes, like marathon runners, Iron Man competitors, and long distance bikers.

A secondary goal is an increase in the amount of stretch in your muscles that a massage therapist can safely perform. It is very difficult for you to stretch your muscles beyond their “normal” operating length on your own. Your body “remembers” the movement of a muscle and prevents you from moving past that point. This is part of a biological process called “proprioception.”

This explains why improving your flexibility on your own can take a long time. Repeated stretches over time results in tiny incremental lengthening of the muscle fibers. It can sometimes take three to six months of regular yoga to gain an extra inch of flexion in your back, for example.

A massage therapist, on the other hand, can properly push your stretch into the “plastic” stage, or the point at which connective tissue and muscle becomes malleable.

Techniques

Improving range of motion and conserving energy is a goal of a mobile sports massage for marathon runners.
Improving range of motion and conserving energy is a goal of a mobile sports massage for marathon runners.

A sports massage is not the restful, relaxing massage that you normally picture.

The session usually begins with some vigorous rocking and shaking of the entire skeletal muscle system. This action is used to wake up the entire nervous system and get it ready to fire commands. It also helps loosen any stiff joints in the spine and begins the lubrication process in your knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders.

Next, a series of vigorous strokes are applied over to major muscle groups. These strokes are fast with a light-to-medium pressure. The speed and rhythm of these strokes help activate the muscle tissue in preparation for the hard work ahead.

Passive range of motion movements are performed to further lubricate the joints and to help assess any muscle groups that are particularly stiff or stuck due to prior injury or overuse.

The next technique is a combination of active and passive stretching. I will use my hands to physically grab the muscle and safely pull it away from the bony structures to which it attaches. Then, I will put the muscle into a stretch position and increment the angle and distance of the stretch without your assistance.

Once the stretch limit has been reached, I will then ask you to provide active resistance to the stretch, meaning, you will exert force against the movement to engage the muscles. While they are engaged, I will increase and hold the stretch to “reset” the proprioceptors to the new stretch distance.

When Should I Get a Sports Massage?

To get the most benefit out of this style of massage, you should book your mobile sports massage session within two hours of the start of the game or vigorous activity. This modality is energizing and prepares your body for the work ahead. Allowing too much time to pass before the competition will put you into “cooldown” mode and any edge you gained will be lost.

A focused sports massage, say, just for your legs if you are a runner, will only last between 20 and 30 minutes. It should be done just prior to your normal warm up routine. It should not be done as a complete replacement to warm up exercise, which is still necessary to prepare your cardio- and nervous system for the workout.

I have often been called in to help sports teams prepare for tournaments and matches, working on multiple athletes on the same team. I have also used sports techniques on the cast of musicals and dance competitions.

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