Clinical Sports Massage & Remedial Therapy

What is ‘Sports & Remedial Massage’?


 Firstly, what is ‘Massage’?

In its simplest form, ‘massage’ can be defined as ‘the manipulation of the 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.

What is ‘Remedial Massage’?

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, impairment, etc.

Its aims and benefits can include effective, lasting:

·         Muscle relaxation

·         Myofascial release, enabling associated postural change

·         Pain relief

·         Improved autonomic function

·         Functional movement restoration

·         Prevention of injury/dysfunction recurrence

·         In the face of certain chronic conditions, maintained improvement/retarding of deterioration

·         Enhanced quality of life.

Such Remedial Massage relies on Advanced Soft Tissue Techniques (ASTTs)

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), and

·         Functional Technique (FT).

How does remedial massage work?

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, and improving joint health & function.

However, a number of techniques primarily target neurophysio-logical responses, by capitalising on the body’s natural neuro-muscular (nerve-muscle) reflexes, to facilitate and enhance self-healing, functional restoration, improved motor control, etc.

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 translates as increased tissue oxygenation and nutrition, removal of metabolic waste, promoting healing

·         Improved muscle balance and nerve conduction  enhance proprioception, motor control, and hence function and reduced risk of injury recurrence

·         Enhanced well-being achieved via therapeutic touch can in turn reduce anxiety and promote a more positive psychological state.

The efficacy 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, etc. is nowadays well documented in a growing body of clinical research. It can for instance reduce muscle spasm, pain, improve mobility, control, and hence 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.

Where does ‘Sports Massage’ fit in?

Sports Massage is a discipline within Remedial Massage as described above, applied specifically in the context of sports performance. Key aims include:

·         Optimal treatment of soft tissue injury

·         Injury prevention

·         Improved recovery from exertion, enabling the athlete to tolerate severe training sessions more frequently

·         Enhanced balance between flexibility, stability, coordination (motor control), proprioception, and power– or endurance-orientated strength

·         Muscle balance restoration

·         Psychological and physical relaxation

·         Performance enhancement.

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