What is Sports Massage?

January 28, 2023

What is Sports Massage

Therapeutic Sports Massage is a therapy method targeting specific muscle groups to improve muscle flexibility, range of motion, wellness, and function.

Sports massage is specifically designed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. It’s not just for athletes, anyone who wants to improve muscle function can benefit. It can also be used to help prevent injuries and to speed up the recovery process after an injury has occurred. Think of it as a tune-up for your muscles, similar to how you would get a regular tune-up for your car. It’s a great way to keep your muscles in top condition and perform at your best.

Let’s explore what therapeutic sports massage is, the benefits of this type of deep tissue massage, and how it can help improve your overall health, beauty and wellness.

Benefits of Sports Massage

Naturally, you would think that a sports massage pertains specifically to athletes and sports. However, the benefits of deep tissue massage go beyond just helping athletes. It can also be beneficial for people who suffer from chronic pain, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, and other conditions. In addition, it can help to improve circulation, which can help to oxygenate the muscles and improve overall health.

neck and shoulder sports massageAnother great benefit is that it can help to improve overall relaxation and reduce stress. Interestingly, even though more pressure is typically applied during a sports massage as compared to spa or relaxation massages, many people do find that they are in fact quite relaxing, They can also help reduce stress and tension in the body and may help your body improve sleep and digestion which is essential for your overall health and wellness.

Types of Therapeutic Sports Massage

There are quite a few massage techniques used in sports massage to help an individual with peak performance and longevity. The skill sets required are extremely dynamic and require a lot of training for a massage therapist to become proficient. Aspects of some of these techniques begin falling into the realm of medical massage and may require additional licenses and medical referrals depending on the state you live in.

Pre-Event Massage

Think of this like a warm-up for your muscles before a big competition or event. It’s a shorter massage, usually around 15-30 minutes, that’s given to you right before you compete to make sure your muscles are warmed up and ready to go. Your massage therapist will use techniques like Swedish massage, effleurage (gliding stroking), stretching and compression to help increase blood flow and warm up your muscles. It’s like a quick tune-up for your body to help you perform at your best by reducing muscle tension, increasing flexibility, and improving your range of motion. So, if you have a Republic CrossFit event or regional competition coming up soon, you might want to consider getting a pre-event sports massage to help ensure that you’re in top condition and ready to go.

Post-Event Massage

This massage is like a cool down for your muscles after your big competition or event. It’s a longer massage, usually around 30-60 minutes, that’s given to you right after you compete to help you recover and feel good. The massage therapist will use techniques like Swedish massage, effleurage, stretching and compression to help reduce muscle soreness, decrease muscle tension, and improve circulation. It’s like a recovery session for your body after a big event.

Post-event massage is a great way to help your body get back to normal routine as soon as possible, reduce muscle soreness, and decrease muscle tension, which in turn helps reduce the risk of injury and speed up the recovery process. So, if you’ve just finished a big game or competition, you might want to consider getting a post-event sports massage to help you recover and feel good.

Maintenance Massage

This type of massage is like a regular check-up for your muscles. It’s a massage that you get on a regular basis, usually every 2-4 weeks, to help keep your muscles in top shape and prevent injuries. The massage therapist will use different techniques like Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy and stretching to help improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and increase flexibility. It’s like getting a regular tune-up for your muscles, similar to how you would get a regular tune-up for your car.

low back pain sports massageA maintenance massage is great for athletes who want to maintain the benefits of previous sports massage treatments and prevent future injuries, but it’s also good for non-athletes who want to maintain muscle function and prevent muscle pain and tension due to daily activities or poor posture. So, if you want to keep your muscles in top shape, a maintenance massage might be a good idea for you.

Restoration Massage

Also known as a rehabilitation massage, a rehab massage is like physical therapy for your muscles. As the name suggests, it’s a massage that’s given to help you recover. A restoration massage goes beyond sports, however, as they can be used to help recover from an injury or surgery too. Our primary massage therapist, Katie, spent several years performing Medical Massage as a Physical Therapist and is well versed in its various applications. For a restoration massage, the therapist will use different techniques like Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point release and stretching to help you regain strength, flexibility, range of motion, and to reduce pain and inflammation.

It’s different from a regular massage because the massage therapist will have work closely with you and your doctor or physical therapist to come up with a treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific needs and goals. The treatment plan will change as you get better. It’s an important part of your recovery process and can help speed up the healing process, reduce pain and inflammation, and improve overall function of the affected area. So if you’ve had an injury or surgery, a rehab massage can be a great way to help you get back to your normal routine and feeling great!

Swedish massage

A Swedish relaxation massage is a type of therapeutic massage that is used to relax the entire body. It is the most common type of massage and is the foundation for other types of Western massage, deep tissue massage, and therapeutic relaxation massage. It’s a full-body massage that uses long strokes, kneading, and circular movements to work out the kinks and tension in your muscles.

The massage therapist will use massage oil or lotion to make sure your skin glides smoothly over the table. Swedish massage is all about relaxing the body and mind. The massage therapist will use different techniques like gliding strokes (effleurage), kneading and rolling of the muscles (petrissage), percussive tapping (tapotement), and vibration to work the muscles.

Swedish massage is a great way to increase blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and soreness, increase flexibility and mobility, promote relaxation, and improve overall health and wellness. These are perfect if you’re feeling stressed out or if you just need a little “me time”. It can also help relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and reduce muscle stiffness.

Deep tissue massage

A deep tissue massage focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is often used to target specific areas of pain or muscle tension, such as chronic pain or sports injuries.

Unlike a traditional Swedish massage, which uses long strokes and gentle pressure, a deep tissue massage typically uses slower strokes and more intense pressure to reach the deeper layers of muscle and fascia. It can be a bit more intense than other types of massage, but many people find it to be highly effective for optimal movement and function.

Trigger point therapy

Trigger point therapy focuses on the release of tension in specific areas of the body. These points can cause pain and discomfort when they become tight or inflamed. massage toolsDuring a trigger point therapy session the therapist will use their hands, fingers, and tools to apply pressure to these points and release the tension.

At Refuge Wellness we are certified with RockTape and use their Rock Blades instruments and water-resistant Kinesiology Rocktape to assist in treating muscle tension and pain, especially in the back and shoulders.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial refers to the thin layer of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones and joints. When the fascia becomes tight or restricted, it can cause pain, discomfort, and limited range of motion. Myofascial massage therapy uses slow, sustained pressure to release these restrictions and help improve flexibility and movement. Your massage therapist will use their hands, knuckles, or tools to apply pressure to the fascia and release tension.

Myofascial release massage can be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, and sports-related injuries. It is also good for individuals who want to improve their flexibility and mobility too.


As with any individual, especially an athlete, stretching is an important part of your routine. Stretching during a massage therapy session can further improve overall flexibility and range of motion, and reduce muscle tension.

There are a variety of stretching techniques that can be used during a massage session, including static stretching, dynamic stretching, and PNF stretching. Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a certain amount of time, while dynamic stretching involves moving in and out of a stretch. PNF stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is a form of stretching that combines both passive and active movements.

We are able to help to guide you through a series of stretches that are tailored to your individual needs and goals. Therapeutic stretching is also good for athletes who want to improve their performance, prevent injury, and improve their health and wellness in general.

Does Sports Massage Hurt?

The main method to accomplish pain relief for sports massage is through pressure. Sometimes that pressure becomes uncomfortable, particularly if your body is especially tight or it is your first time having that area of your body worked on. Your brain will try to guard against any type of movement or touch.

When our therapists apply pressure, it is never beyond what we call “comfortably uncomfortable.” We listen to your body and we listen to your feedback. If at any time you are receiving a sports massage – whether from Refuge Wellness or another clinic – and the massage becomes too painful, the therapist should adjust their approach to your massage immediately and utilize some of the other techniques mentioned above in order to address or bypass your cause of pain.

Does Sports Massage Improve Performance and Recovery

By focusing on addressing the specific needs and concerns of athletes, such as improving flexibility, reducing muscle tension, and increasing blood flow to the muscles, sports massage can also help to prevent injury by identifying areas of tightness or weakness and addressing them before they become problematic.

Your therapist will use the variety of techniques mentioned, such as deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, and stretching to help athletes like you achieve your goals.

These massage sessions can also help to speed up recovery time after an event or training session. This type of massage is not only useful for athletes of all skill levels and areas of sports performance, but also for our military, law enforcement, and even people who just want to improve their physical activity performance and wellness on a day-to-day basis.

How to Schedule a Sports Massage

With a background in medical massage and sports therapy as a Physical Therapist, sports massage is one of our strongest specialties at Refuge Wellness.

Simply Book an Appointment for your next massage so we can help improve your mobility and functional performance for a lifetime of wellness.

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