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When to get a sports massage

​​​​​​​What you do before and after a workout or competition can help prevent sports injury. Athletes are discovering the post-workout and event benefits of sports massage therapy.

man playing basketballDuring exercise, muscles tighten, and lactic acid builds up in the tissues as the workout or competition continues. The tissues become oxygen deprived, and dehydration tends to occur.

"Sports massage therapy gets the muscles to relax and loosen up after the workout or competition is finished," said Licensed Massage Therapist Mykos Ress, Marshfield Clinic Woodruff Center. "The tissues are stimulated to flush the lactic acid and free radicals out of the system and let the oxygen and body's nutrients in via increased blood flow. This allows the muscle tissue to recover more quickly."

Traditionally, the technique used for sports massage therapy is therapeutic massage, which may include deep tissue, lymphatic or Swedish massage. The technique stimulates circulation and lymph fluids, which act to clear away waste and other byproducts in the muscle tissues.

"We may think of sports massage therapy as being only for elite athletes because for many, it has become part of their training," said Ress. "But with so many repetitive injuries in young kids, the therapy also can have tremendous benefits for the school or club sport athlete. During my 20 years of experience, three activities post-workout or competition have increased: hydration, icing and massage therapy."

Involving a sports massage therapist in post-practice and play routines can help to identify tenderness or other signs of potential sports injury.

"If you experience an acute injury, you want to recover from it quickly," Ress said. "A qualified sports massage therapist can help identify problem areas, such as overly tight hamstring muscles, a condition that could result in a serious pull or tear."

Benefits from sports massage therapy for recovering muscles slip away with time. "Massage therapy should take place at least by the next day in order to gain the most benefit," said Ress.

Patients can self-refer for sports massage therapy or may receive a physician referral. Check with your insurance provider for questions regarding coverage.

"Part of what I do is an education process," said Ress. "The more people know about their body, the more they know how to take care of it. I try to give them information to help them be proactive with their health and to help prevent injury."​