Sports massage focuses on optimizing muscle, tendon, ligament and joint health in order to prevent sport injuries or promote healing after an injury has occurred. It is commonly used before or after sporting events, or during training. Sports massage therapists are well trained in various massage therapy techniques including stretching techniques, which can be incorporated into a therapy session. Be sure to ask your therapist what massage techniques they are trained in. You can also locate a qualified sports massage therapist by visiting the American Massage Therapy Association's website.
Above and Beyond
PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching results in increased flexibility and is considered one of the most effective methods to increase range of motion, according to the website Sports Fitness Advisor. Using this technique, the sports massage therapist gently stretches your muscle or muscle group to its end point for approximately 10 seconds. You then contract that muscle against resistance by pushing against the therapist's hand. This position is held for six seconds. Once relaxed, the therapist then passively stretches the muscle again, positioning it further than the original range of motion allowed. This type of therapy is ideally suited for large muscle groups such as your hamstrings, quadriceps and adductors, which are all muscles found in your inner thighs.
Don't Antigonize the Antagonist
AIS or active isolated stretching is one of the most common methods for increasing range of motion used in sports therapy. During a session, your therapist will gently push your muscles just beyond their normal range of motion and hold this stretched position for only two seconds. This brief stretch allows the targeted muscle to lengthen without triggering the stretch reflex that contracts the antagonist muscle, or the muscle that opposes the targeted muscle. This gentle stretch is repeated several times for each targeted muscle. AIS protocol involves more than 170 different stretches that target all the muscle groups in the body, including those that are hard to palpate, such as the psoas. Your practitioner will choose which are appropriate for you according to your symptoms and evaluation.
Release Me and Let Me Go
Myofascial release therapy is designed to stretch the fascia, the fibrous tissue that surrounds your muscles, bones and organs in one continuous sheath of connective tissue. The therapist breaks up restrictions in the fascia that have developed due to injury or the development of scar tissue by applying direct force to the tissue and slowly stretching it. The amount of pressure is slowly increased until the practitioner has reached the deep tissue layers. This type of therapy is mean to loosen the fascia, which that extends through your entire body.
Relax and Release
Passive soft tissue release is used to stretch muscles, their surrounding fascia and the tendons that attach these muscles to bones. In this type of therapy, your therapist will leave the muscle in a relaxed position. In order to accomplish this, they will place your limbs in such a manner as to shorten the muscle. As an example, in order to relax your hamstrings, they flex your knee while you're lying on your stomach. This shortens the muscle. The therapist then applies pressure near the origin of the muscle, locking the muscle in place, and slowly lengthens the muscle by lowering your leg back down to the table. The therapist repeats the move several times, applying pressure progressively down the length of the muscle until reaching its other end. This type of therapy can be applied to both large and small muscle groups, from the large muscles in your thighs to the small muscles of the fingers, making it an ideal overall body therapy.