Injury prevention

Understanding sports massage

Nov 3, 2020

Understanding sports massage | Run Life

All runners will, at some point, get a niggle here or there and this could be for a variety of reasons. Sports Massage is a great add-on to your training as it helps to relieve tired, stiff and sore muscles, increases blood flow, reduces recovery time and can assist in the treatment of minor soft tissue (muscle) injuries. It’s also a great way to help with postural imbalances, correct muscle functions, sports performance and to prevent possible future injuries or problems.

During a session your areas of concern would be addressed, Sports Massage can be a bit sore at times especially if you have a muscle knot or spasm which needs to be released. A therapist will use different techniques, strokes and stretches to help release, elongate and stretch out your muscles. Sports massage targets the deeper layers of the muscle and connective tissue and the massage practitioner will use slower strokes parallel to the grain of the muscle.

Getting ready for an event

All depending on your physical activity you can go for a Sports Massage once a week or a few days before your event. It can be incorporated as part of your warm up on the day of the event, during the event for events such as day breakers or circuit races, and for recovery after an event.  Usually right before or during an event, the practitioner will ‘flush’ out the muscles, ensuring they are loose and ready for action.

What is a knot?

The muscle is compromised of a variety of small muscles fibres. During training you might get a micro-trauma, due to over training, incorrect posture or even just a quick change of direction. When this micro-trauma occurs, the surrounding fibres will pull together to guard and protect this area from further injury. Often times the tension will remain long after the micro-trauma has healed itself. One of the techniques used to treat this is Neuromuscular technique. The practitioner will apply pressure to an area which is tight and the peripheral nervous system will react to the sensation of pain and communicate with the brain that there is pressure, which in turn will communicate to the body to relax and the contracted muscles fibres to release.

At times an athlete may feel referral pain. This can be due to another involved muscle having an underlying problem due to compensating for the injured or tight muscle.

You have an injury, what now?

Follow the RICE principle.

R – Rest

Rest the affected area, stop and take a break from your physical activity that causes you pain

I – Ice

Take an ice pack covered in a towel and place it over the affected area as soon as possible, to relieve pain and swelling.

C – Compress

Ensure when you wrap an area that you don’t do it too tight. Check for numbness and tingling.

E – Elevate

Place the injured area on a pillow, while icing as you lie down or sit.

If the problem persists, it’s best e to seek medical advice from your Sports Doctor or Physiotherapist. They will diagnose your injury and discuss a treatment plan with you and the way forward and may at times refer you for a sports massage.

Leonie Knoetze


Leonie Knoetze is a sports massage therapist and fitness trainer from Ariella Studio in Pretoria. She is a regular therapist at numerous major sporting events across the country. Read more about her here.

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