Sports Massage - what's in a name?

As the Olympics have been gracing our television screens over the last few weeks I thought is was relevant to post about an often asked question that I receive and that is 'do I provide sports massage?'

When I am asked this question my initial wish is to ask 'what is your sport and when is the event that you are partaking in?' But I know that these days most people are referring to a deep tissue type of massage.

In my eyes a sports massage is strictly related to sporting events and is used in 3 scenarios, either:

1 -  a pre event treatment that an athlete may use as part of their race / sport preparation.

2 - an inter event treatment that an athlete may utilise between event rounds that take place on the same day e.g. the multi disciplinary events of the heptathlon.

3 - a post event treatment that an athlete may use as part of their warm down / recovery protocol.

Sports massage came to the fore when, at the 1972 Olympics, Lasse Viren of Finland won gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races. He claimed his secret was daily deep tissue friction massage.

This lead to many athletes incorporating this type of massage into their training regime and thus was born the association with sports massage and a deep tissue type of therapy.

So again I ask why in a non sporting arena do you want a sports massage?

When you ask people to elaborate it often turns out that what they actually want is a more thorough therapeutic treatment to ease, soften and lengthen their tissues as opposed to a lighter aromatherapy or spa type of massage.

This type of therapeutic treatment is more reflected in the now rarely used term of Remedial Swedish massage which was developed by Pehr Henrik Ling, a Swedish fencing expert of the early 1800's. He created a system using the basic strokes of massage - effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, compression, vibration, friction and shaking combined with stretching and remedial exercise. 

The development of sports massage therapy utilised many of these techniques to help athletes in their pursuit of better performance and enhanced training.

Unfortunately the term Remedial or Swedish massage has been replaced by sports massage and therein lies the confusion!

So should Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or Laura Trott happen to ask if I provide sports massage the answer will be a resounding yes. But should a non athlete ask the same question then the answer will be no....... but I can offer a more appropriate treatment of Remedial massage!