Sports massage. An outdated and outmoded concept?

I am often asked by clients for a ‘sports massage’. I always ask them what they understand by ‘sports massage’ and what they expect of this type of massage. They invariably reply…. ‘deep tissue’ and often, quite worryingly, not only do they expect it will hurt, but they actually want it to hurt! Without this ‘hurt’ it can’t possibly be doing any good. But is this assumption correct? Well the simple answer is no!

Perhaps a better description to apply to any type of massage would be ‘appropriate massage’. That is, appropriate to the needs of the client and the presenting conditions. There is no routine ‘ one size fits all’ solution. Massage may be deep or may be superficial. But it must be appropriate.

For me an over ridding factor is the relationship between client and therapist. Any massage, especially one addressing rehabilitation and injury prevention, should begin with a full consultation establishing a medical and life style history (for an initial appointment with me allow 1.5 hours. You will only be charged for the hour but this allows time for full consultation process). There should also be questions pertaining to reasons for attending and the expectations of the client. The relationship starts here. If the therapist feels that he can be of help then further assessments and functional tests may be carried out. Only after this process can a treatment plan be agreed. From this initial consultation the therapist has a better understanding of needs of the client. And the client will be better informed about the treatment process.

Rarely will a single treatment prove conclusive BUT neither is the treatment plan open-ended. You should not expect to return indefinitely until a ‘cure’ is found. Instead the treatment plan will contain a re-assessment period, normally after 3-6 treatments, whereby progression can be compared. This period allows time for the treatment to prove its effectiveness. From here the plan may be extended, altered or, if needed, a referral can be made. The point is that the plan involves the client and can evolve to best meet their interests. It may sound like a cliché but the truth is that the clients interests are paramount. Of course I want to be the one to ‘fix it’ but ultimately I rely on your feedback for my business.

You should expect to work closely with your therapist, both in the clinical environment and with home care compliance, so it is essential you find a therapist you can trust and communicate freely with. You are as part of the process as the therapist and treatments are. The therapist should never promise exaggerated cures or make outlandish claims.

Finally, and this may sound strange, but don’t expect a massage!? Of course massage will be involved in the process,(after all you’re seeing a Massage Therapist), but the point is it may only be a part of it. The experienced therapist will have a range of techniques available to them that can be appropriately employed within the treatment plan. Notice again the reference to appropriate. Just because a therapist has knowledge of a technique it does not automatically make it appropriate. Knowing when not to use a technique is as important as knowing when it may be employed.

So in summary

  • Replace the concept of ‘sports massage’ with ‘appropriate’ massage.
  • Only work with a therapist you feel comfy with.
  • Be open to the reasons why a particular technique or type of massage is being used in the treatment.
  • Expect to be part of the treatment process.


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