What is Clinical Sports and Remedial Massage?
In its simplest form, ‘massage’ can be defined as ‘the manipulation of soft tissues of the body for therapeutic purposes, performed most commonly by using the hands, forearms, knuckles, or elbows, depending on the depth of pressure and outcome required’.
Competently delivered massage is both an art and a science, which relies on established evidence-based functional anatomy & physiology, sound clinical assessment and reasoning, and on the all-essential experience, skills, and intuition unique to each practitioner.
Remedial massage, using ‘Advanced Soft Tissue Techniques’ (ASSTs), is a deep form of muscle-specific, problem-specific treatment, using a wide repertoire of hands-on techniques aimed at facilitating positive change to the soft tissue layers, from superficial to deep.
It can be delivered relatively generally, for an overall effect of relaxation/restoration, or more specifically to address recipients’ particular needs, such as pain, dysfunction or impairment.
The Benefits of Massage
Benefits can include effective and lasting:
- Muscle relaxation
- Enhanced recovery
- Improved posture
- Pain relief
- Greater range of movement
- Injury prevention
- Enhanced quality of life
- Improved performance
- Where the client is suffering from certain chronic conditions, there is evidence that massage can improve symptoms and prevent deterioration
What techniques are used?
These are creatively selected and combined on the basis of sound clinical reasoning, for the recipient’s optimal benefit. Hence, besides the ‘traditional’ oil-based massage approach involving effleurage, pétrissage, pressure, friction, rocking, etc., treatment extensively relies on a spectrum of advanced, lotion-free techniques, which commonly achieve fast, effective results. These include:
- Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
- Soft Tissue Release (STR)
- Fascial Release Technique (FRT)
- Neuro-Muscular Technique (NMT)
- Positional Release Technique (PRT)
- Functional Technique (FT)
The Effects of Massage on the Body
Most techniques owe some of their benefits to the mechanical effects specific to the massage strokes applied. These effects can include:
- Stretching of the muscle fibres and associated fascia
- ‘Pumping’, locally or more globally, of the circulation system
- Reducing local tissue congestion/swelling, thereby enhancing circulation
- Separating and ‘realigning’ muscle fibres
- ‘Breaking down’ scar tissue, adhesions, congestion within or between muscles/other soft tissue structures
- Stimulating synovial fluid release and circulation, improving joint health and function.
However, a number of techniques primarily target neuro-physiological responses, by capitalising on the body’s natural neuro-muscular (nerve-muscle) reflexes, to facilitate and enhance self-healing, functional restoration and improved motor control.
Effects can include:
- Promoting muscle relaxation/normal resting ‘tone’
- Restoring muscle balance
- Enhancing tissue flexibility/range of movement deficits
- Toning of wasted muscle
- Enhancing nerve conduction
- Improving blood circulation
- Decreasing pain
- Enhancing tissue healing
- Improving proprioception and motor control.
In turn, these various effects of remedial massage result in the following benefits:
- Tissue tension, stiffness, and/or pain relief enhances normal functional joint movement
- Improved blood flow increases tissue oxygenation and nutrition, removal of metabolic waste and promotes healing
- Improved muscle balance and nerve conduction enhance proprioception, motor control, and function and hence reduced risk of injury recurrence
- Enhanced well-being achieved via therapeutic touch can in turn reduce anxiety and promote a more positive psychological state.
Who can Benefit from Massage?
The benefits of Remedial Massage following numerous types of surgery, for circulatory problems including oedema and a number of other medical conditions such as neurological disorders, some auto-immune conditions, is nowadays well documented in a growing body of clinical research. It can for instance reduce muscle spasm, pain, improve mobility, control and quality of life for sufferers of MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Parkinson’s disease, and other central nervous system (CNS) conditions. A number of case studies have shown encouraging results in ‘fascial release’ reducing the pain and severe mobility restrictions associated with connective tissue fibrosis/sclerosis among Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) patients.
Sports Massage offers a great way of recovering from training and most of us who compete in sport incur the physical stresses of a job and family life as well. Often what may appear to be a ‘sports injury’ has more to do with underlying postural and occupational factors. Soft tissue therapy considers all factors which have contributed to your injury and provides rehabilitation advice to help prevent a recurrence.
This is not just beneficial for the athlete but also for anyone suffering with muscular aches and pains.