Monday, September 16, 2019

What You Need to Know Before Having a Sports Massage

What You Need to Know Before Having a Sports Massage
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I recently had my first sports massage. I was having trouble with my shoulder for quite some time and as I increased my level of activity, the pain increased as well to the point of being unbearable. I was starting to lose sleep at night and I was feeling pretty uncomfortable during the day, usually starting out fine in the morning, but hurting more as the day progressed. My dance teacher suggested a sports massage, but to be honest, I'm not a big fan of massages so I ignored him for a while. Then my husband and a few friends suggested the same and eventually I gave in. The massage helped a lot, but as soon as I got there I realised that there was a lot that I didn't know before making the appointment. Here's what I wish I had known before having a sports massage...

1. Pain
I knew to expect some discomfort, but I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and I was shocked at just how much it hurt. I hope if you need a sports massage that this isn't off-putting, but by the same token, I don't want anyone to be as surprised as I was. I almost cried, I scrunched up my face a lot and there was more than enough loud groaning & grunting. Of course I could have asked her to ease up, but I wanted the problem fixed so I let her do what she needed to do and my goodness it was wildly painful. It's also worth noting that all practitioners will be a bit different. I went to someone who prefers to focus on the area in question while others may prefer to do a full body massage. Since she suspected a rotator cuff tear, she focused on the shoulders, the pecks and the neck. The most painful part of the massage was on my neck and I'm really surprised I made it through the treatment, but I did and afterwards the mobility in my shoulder was much improved. That said, having only a couple of areas focused on exclusively for that period of time is really intense... Sports massages are not at all the same as the relaxing massages you get at your favourite spa and it's good to be prepared for the difference.

2. Recovery Time
I had no idea that I would be advised not to engage in any physical activity for at least 24 hours after the appointment. I went when I did because I was hoping to have my shoulder sorted before a two hour dance workshop later that evening. Not all recovery time will be the same, but exerting yourself in the first 24 hours may undo the work you've had done. I didn't listen... I went to my dance workshop anyway and to be honest, I regretted it... I figured I could go easy with my right arm and simply focus on the footwork, but even that didn't feel great. When I arrived I was okay - a bit sore, but functional. About 25 minutes into the workshop, my right arm was sore, uncomfortable and felt like it weighed a million pounds. I found myself doing everything with my hands on my hips because it felt difficult to hold my arm onto my body... If I had this to do all over again, I wouldn't try to dance within at least 24 hours after the massage. As it was, I ended up cancelling all of my Pilates classes and dance practices for the following 4 days because I was really very sore for a while after the massage.

3. Bruising
The massage therapist asked my permission to use something that looked a bit like brass knuckles to work into my pecks. I was fine with it and though it wasn't the most painful part of my massage, it did hurt a bit. Following the appointment, I couldn't figure out why my chest and armpits were so sore until the bruises showed up. I was bruised from shoulder to shoulder across my chest and they stayed there for a week or two. Before you go for a a sports massage, keep in mind that you might have some bruising afterwards depending on what they do while you're there, whether it's using something like my therapist did, cupping or other alternatives.


4. Soreness
You will most likely be quite sore afterwards. I was sore to the touch - it was painful to be hugged. I found that even wearing a bra or a tight fitting top was almost too much to bear. If being really sore is something that's going to be problematic, you might want to schedule your appointment for a Friday before a weekend when you're not busy or some other time when you won't be too inconvenienced by the recovery period.

5. Exercises
Depending on why you're going, your massage therapist may give you some exercises to do. I was given a few exercises with resistance bands. These exercises only work if you actually do them, so keep that in mind. It might be helpful to take a notebook so you can write them down.

6. Options
After talking to some friends I realised that there are potential options other than a straight massage that could be discussed in the appointment. Alternative therapies such as needling or cupping are sometimes helpful for various injuries or tightness and sometimes the same person can provide these services or recommend a colleague. It's worth being prepared if these other remedies are of interest to you or asking your massage therapist for more options if the massage isn't fixing your problem.

7. Aftermath
Sometimes the appointment can't fix the whole problem and in some cases, it might create a whole new problem. After my appointment, my rotator cuff felt so much better, but a few days later I was having a new kind of pain. I couldn't figure it out, but I thought I had everything from a broken collar bone to a neck injury. I came to discover that I had a trapped shoulder. I don't know if it's because of the massage or not, but I didn't have it before. You may require more than one appointment to sort out everything that's wrong and it's helpful to understand that before committing to the process.

So these are the things I wish I had known before my first sports massage. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below.

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