Training massage

The aim of this massage is to help the athlete achieve and maintain peak condition, thus maximising performance. This massage is very similar to post-event massage, as its main aim is to clear out the waste products and promote speedy recovery. There are, however, differences that should be noted. The objectives are to:

© maintain an efficient circulation and delivery of nutrients and oxygen for nourishing the tissues

© quickly remove metabolic waste after a training session

© promote fast recovery of the muscles, thus allowing greater frequency of training © prevent any minor injuries becoming more serious and chronic © prevent the formation of scar tissue and to stretch old scar tissue © prevent the formation of adhesions and fibrosis

© maintain flexibility or elasticity of muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments © maintain and improve the range of movement at joints © relieve stress and promote relaxation.

Training massage is probably the most beneficial for the athlete. It should be given, like postevent massage, immediately following activity. This will achieve similar effects in flushing out waste products, aiding the recovery of the muscles and restoring homeostasis. Massage identifies and reduces areas of tension that could lead to serious injury. During hard training massage may be given after every session. If given every day or so, it should be fairly light. The massage should concentrate on the strained used areas, although it is important to treat both sides of the body to maintain balance. It is also important to treat antagonistic muscles equally, as increased tension in the antagonistic muscles will limit performance or leave the muscle vulnerable to injury.

Again an upper body massage including the back, or lower body massage including the back, may be given. In addition a full deep body massage should be given once a week. This reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation. This should be followed by one or two days of rest to allow recovery. A full body massage should not be given immediately before an event. At least four or five days should elapse to allow the athlete fully to recover alertness and focus.

If minor injuries occur during training, they may only become apparent during massage. If left untreated they would leave the body vulnerable to further injury. The therapist is able to identify these areas of pain or tension and treat them immediately, thus preventing more extensive or serious trauma. Many minor injuries may occur during training. The more common and easily treatable are described as follows:

© Small tears or micro-traumas may occur within muscles. These will heal with the formation of fibrous scar tissue. The extent of fibrous tissue laid down will depend on the extent of the trauma and the speed of recovery. Scar tissue forms a hard inflexible mass within the muscle, which contracts over time. This reduces the extensibility and flexibility of the muscle, impairing its function. Regular massage will speed up the recovery and reduce the amount of scar tissue laid down. Massage will also maintain the suppleness of old scar tissue already present and prevent it contracting.

© The fascia surrounding and lying between muscles may tighten as a result of injuries or repetitive strain. This will produce pain and stiffness, which will inhibit muscle action. Stretching massage will separate these fascial compartments, loosen the fascia and release the muscles to function correctly.

© Massage around joints will improve nourishment and maintain flexibility of joint structures. The tendons or ligaments around joints may be damaged or over-stretched (sprains) during training or performance. During the healing process, the exudate that is part of the inflammatory process may become tacky and sticky, and form adhesions that bind the tendons and ligaments to underlying structures. Frictions performed around the joint or across the tendons will help to free these structures and restore joint function.

© Some forms of training, such as strength training, result in bulky inflexible muscles. Massage will be very beneficial in maintaining the suppleness of these muscles. Use of isometric work, where the muscles contract but do not change in length, inhibits the flow of blood as there is no pumping action on the blood vessels. If there are insufficient rest periods, pressure is maintained on the capillary beds, further restricting blood flow, and muscle fatigue develops quickly. Massage is therefore particularly beneficial following hard isometric training.

Athletes who receive massage during the training sessions recover more quickly and can train more frequently. Many athletes suffer a high degree of stress and anxiety. A general body massage performed regularly once a week can improve the well-being of the athlete. The stress and anxiety levels are reduced, which will relieve symptoms such as headaches, irritability, listlessness and vague aches and pains, and can restore good sleep patterns.

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