Swimming is a low impact sport that works almost every muscle in the body. This is why so many people opt for swimming as a means to lose weight or keep fit and healthy. However, avid-swimmers are prone to repetitive stress injuries. The chances of contracting an injury increase if appropriate relaxation and rehabilitation measures aren’t followed. For full-time swimmers, massage therapy could be just what they need. Swimming uses nearly every muscle in the body, so it’s not surprising to hear that injuries aren’t uncommon. Muscle tension, strains and knots are extremely common, which is why massage therapy is so valuable for people who practice swimming regularly or competitively.
It is believed that around 27% to 84% of competitive swimmers injure their shoulders at some point during their athletic career. When swimmers suffer from pain on the front and outer side of the shoulder and arm, it of often referred to as ‘swimmer’s shoulder’. This injury is often caused by intense, repetitive training, but this isn’t hard to believe. After all, most athletic swimmers average 3,000-6,000 meters every training session. This of course, places an enormous amount of strain on the shoulders. As the joint system with the largest degree of range, the shoulders achieve an impressive range of motion. Juliette Woodruff, a massage therapist and acupuncture practitioner at the Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic, Canada, states that the shoulder is a:
“Support mechanism that allows the shoulder to withstand large external forces, while providing enough mobility for the upper extremity to accomplish complex movement patterns.”
She goes onto explain that swimming is made up of a range of movement patterns, all of which involve some kind of continuous arm movement. This means that every the smallest injury of pain could upset the balance of the steadying structures around the joints. This could then lead to shoulder instability- the main cause of shoulder pain in swimmers. Often, shoulder pain and injuries are caused by:
- Muscular imbalances
- Repetitive strain
- Faulty training mechanics
- Poor posture
- Neuromuscular incoordination
Massage therapy as a treatment
Massage therapy practiced in conjunction with physical therapy is extremely beneficial in mending tight muscles and re-balancing structures in the shoulders. Massage therapy strengthens and lengthens tissues which enhances the mechanics of the shoulder; easing pain, supporting more efficient movement, lessening scar tissue and improving strength. It also allows for a better range of motion and enhances the length of tissues. This allows for a decrease in holding patterns of the posture and improves overall circulation. Essentially, massage therapy enhances performance and certainly aids in rehabilitation and recovery.
People that exercise or undergo physical activity regularly are prone to injuries. Sports massage was developed to try and minimise these effects. This style of massage involves manipulation of soft tissue and therefore benefits people who take part in intense physical activity on a regular basis. Sports massage helps swimmers to:
Maintain a better physical posture- Posture is very important for swimmers, because it allows them to move through water and execute technique more fluently. Sports massage improves blood circulation and nourishes the muscles and soft tissues across the body. This allows for better circulation and relaxed muscles, resulting in improved posture.
Reduces the risk of injury- Sports massage is often sought out by athletes before an event, because it can help to minimise the chance of an injury. This specially designed massage style works to speed up the healing process, whilst reducing the risk of further injury. This means that athletes are able to resume training sooner.
Improves mobility and cures damaged muscle tissue- Repetitive motions can lead to strained or injured muscles. Continued exertion of those muscles causes adhesions and the formation of scar tissue. This is a strong, tough material that forms around damaged muscles. It has been proved that massage therapy is the best way to lessen muscle adhesions and scar tissue; supporting stronger range of motion.
Boosts performance- Sports massage is important because it boosts physical, as well as mental performance. Massages leave athletes feeling energised and motivated, which can contribute to overall performance. As most athletes will say, mental strength is sometimes more important the physical.
When to get a sports massage
Ultimately, massages are designed to be relaxing, but sports massage goes far beyond that. Pre-swim sports massage is exactly what it sounds like- it’s a sports massage executed before an event or intense workout. The aim of a pre-swim sports massage is to prepare the body for intense activity, and to even enhance the body’s ability to perform. This style focuses on the muscles, and pays [particular attention to areas of the body that will be used for the event. Most massage therapists employ stretching techniques, a range of motions, compression, rocking, tapotement and shaking in order to prepare the athlete. Post-swim massage on the other hand serves a different purpose. This is a massage performed after an event, and is designed to heal and relax the muscles in order to avoid onset muscle soreness or to repair incurred injuries. Post-swim massages are performed around 10-15 minutes after an event, and are made up of calming, compressing and therapeutic techniques in order to ease tension from the muscles. It’s a way of relaxing the body after a vigorous workout.
With this in mind, there is no right time to get a sports massage. It boils down to the wants and needs of the individual. In order to prepare for an event in which your body will be pushed to the absolute limit, pre-swim sports massage is an excellent way to enhancing performance and preparing the body. However, if you happen to incur and injury or want to get back to training as soon as possible after an event, post-swim massage is a superb way to aid the body in its recovery.
If you’re a competing swimmer and struggle with regular injuries or sore muscles, sports massage could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Although this style of massage therapy is known for its healing properties, always seek advice from a doctor of physiotherapist before scheduling in for a session.