One thing to establish from the outset when talking about a sports massage is that we’re not dealing with your spa massage experience. A sports massage serves a vital function, and it isn’t relaxation. Designed specifically for the physically active, sports massages incorporate various massage techniques to manipulate your soft tissues in a deep and rehabilitating manner. The process is intended to prevent injuries, alleviate any pain you may be experiencing in muscles or tendons, and rid your soft tissues of any stress they may be storing.

Just as a deep tissue massage can be uncomfortable, so too can a sports massage be less than relaxing. At times, it may even be painfulLet us be honest here, a well-executed sports massage is far from the dimly lit pamper session that you would experience at a spa. It will probably be uncomfortable, quite possibly painful but most importantly, it will work.

Don’t let the potential discomfort put you off, however, sports massages are extremely beneficial for gym bunnies, athletes, and even office workers who find themselves stuck at a desk 9-5. The specific experience will also vary depending on the nature of any injuries or irritations you may have. Most people experience only very mild discomfort. Still, it’s best to be fully aware and prepared, so here’s what to expect from your first sports massage appointment.

Types Of Sports Massage

There are four categories of sports massage:

Pre-Event – this type of sports massage is designed to stimulate specific areas of your body that are expected to be exerted during an upcoming activity. They’re preventative, designed to keep you from injury, and usually take place 15-45 minutes prior to the activity.

Post Event – designed to aid recovery and help your tissues normalise, these are usually received two hours or less after you’ve completed the activity.

Restorative – usually received as part of an ongoing training schedule or given to individuals looking to train harder and improve their personal bests. A restorative sports massage is designed to prevent injuries and aid your tissues in recovering from training sessions.

Rehabilitative – given when an injury has occurred, a rehabilitative sports massage is designed to alleviate pain caused by an injury while helping any affected tissue return to normal.

Surprisingly, sports massages are often also sought by those who suffer from tension headaches and migraines, as they provide relief.

The reasons for getting a sports massage vary just as the experience itself will vary. You may have your first sports massage after an injury as you seek relief. Having seen the benefit you may then work restorative or pre-event massages into your routine. 

During Your Sports Massage Appointment

During your initial clinical assessment your therapist will observe you during a range of exercises to assess your posture, mobility, flexibility and symmetry. Your joints and muscles will be observed as the perform a range of movements ranging from passive to active and resistive.

Your sports massage will differ to a full body massage as your therapist is likely to focus on specific areas following an assessment of your needs. This might be because you have an existing injury or issue that you want treating, but it can also be because you’re anticipating an activity taking a particular toll on certain areas and want to prepare them to prevent injury.

Once your massage starts, your therapist’s role is to find your pain threshold. This allows them to work just below it, to gain maximum benefits from the massage without causing pain. It can feel uncomfortable, but your therapist will walk you through breathing techniques to manage that discomfort. You shouldn’t feel actual pain – if at any time you do, tell your therapist.

After Your Sports Massage Session

It’s natural to feel a little sore following your sports massage. You may find this lasts for a couple of days. Immediately after your session you might also notice feeling cold, thirsty or (less commonly) a little faint. This is because your body is metabolising the toxins flushed from your soft tissues during the massage. It’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of warm water and, if you feel like it, take a warm bath.

The positive effects of your massage will kick in within 48 hours and you will feel relaxed, rejuvenated and refreshed.