Each type of sports massage uses different massage techniques. Effleurage is a light stroking that can be performed with the palms or the thumbs. The pressure and speed is varied depending on the muscle and the desired result. Effleurage increases blood flow to the muscle. Petrissage is a form of two-handed kneading in which both hands pick up the muscle and compress it. This technique loosens tight bunches of muscles. Percussive strokes are blows or strikes on the muscle, often performed with the little fingers. They are used to tone the muscles. Cupping involves percussing or striking the muscles with cupped hands. It stimulates the skin and causes muscle contractions that help tone the muscles. There are variations on all these strokes, such as deep cross-fiber friction to separate muscle fibers and break down scar tissue, and jostling to relieve muscle tension. A good sports massage therapist will combine techniques to achieve the maximum desired result. Sports massage sessions generally last 30-60 minutes.
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Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer. (2)
Proprioceptive studies are much more abundant than massage and proprioception combined, yet researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact mechanisms and pathways involved to get a fuller understanding. Proprioception may be very helpful in rehabilitation, though this is a fairly unknown characteristic of proprioception, and "current exercises aimed at 'improving proprioception' have not been demonstrated to achieve that goal". Up until this point, very little has been studied looking into the effects of massage on proprioception. Some researchers believe "documenting what happens under the skin, bioelectrically and biochemically, will be enabled by newer, non-invasive technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and continuous plasma sampling".
Traditional Thai massage is a different experience if you’ve only ever had a Swedish or deep tissue massage. In Thai massage, you wear loose-fitting clothing (often provided by the massage therapist) and start by lying on a mat. Throughout the massage, the therapist moves your body into various seated and prone positions, which stretch and release your muscles and soft tissue. Although your body is moving, the therapist is doing all the work, making it feel similar to supported yoga. The massage therapist will bend, stretch, and compress and lengthen your body using their hands, forearms, elbows and even feet. Don’t be alarmed by the feet! Many studios have overhead supports that allow the practitioners to safely walk on your back, releasing tight adhesions and promoting ease. Thai massage can be both invigorating and relaxing. It is an excellent option for keeping your muscles in good health if you regularly work out, or if you want to overcome a lack of flexibility. Studies show that Thai massage can increase blood circulation, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension and enhance mental well-being.
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On the road with the WTA is intense but energizing! I have traveled to Paris, Madrid, Istanbul, Monterrey, Acapulco as well as sites in the U.S. The day generally begins at about 7:00am with breakfast, followed by a team meeting. On the first day, we cover every player as well as their individual needs before and after a match. We arrive onsite in the training room one hour prior to play—work can include anything from a quick warm up of a shoulder to cutting tape for an athlete to prepping sports drinks or ice and towels.
Thai massage – or Nuat Thai – combines both physical and energetic aspects. It is a deep, full-body massage progressing from the feet up, and focusing on sen or energy lines throughout the body, with the aim of clearing blockages in these lines, and thus stimulating the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body. It draws on yoga, acupressure and reflexology.
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“If your hands and fingers start to scream while you're working, you need to modify what you're doing,” says Bykofsky. “Also, if you notice that you’re sore at the end of your work day, Bykofsky also recommends that you “do the things you suggest to your clients: ice, apply something to help, perhaps take an anti-inflammatory, and, the hard one, rest!”
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There is not necessarily a hard line between these two techniques, and many sessions often incorporate both depending on your needs. It is usually the case that not all the muscles in your body need deep tissue techniques applied. Rather than being overly concerned with choosing the “right” session, make sure you communicate to your therapist the goals for your session so that he or she can customize the right blend of techniques for you. One massage style is often the foundation of the session, with other techniques used as needed. Due to the slow pace of deep tissue massage it is necessary to schedule a 90-minute session if you would like your full body addressed. Use these guidelines for communication based on your primary goal for the session:
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Make yourself comfortable. If your therapist wants you to adjust your position, she or he will either move you or will ask you to move what is needed. Otherwise, change your position anytime to make yourself more comfortable. Many people close their eyes and relax completely during a session; others prefer to talk. It’s up to you. It is your massage, and whatever feels natural to you is the best way to relax. Do not hesitate to ask questions at any time.
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A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).
Athletes tend to know their bodies fairly well, so information presented to the therapist seems to be better. Compared to the general client, the athlete is also in good shape and is concerned about getting back to the field of play as soon as possible. Some athletes have an obsessive compulsive behavior about their sport. This generally makes them very compliant with the therapists’ recommendations.