Sports Massage and Massage Techniques

Sports Massage and Massage Techniques

The value of massage is far too frequently underestimated in the treatment of sport-related injuries like bruises, tight muscles, sprains, strains, and fractures. In reality, massage, especially when used alongside herbal soaks and herbal liniments, are of great value in pain relief; circulation stimulation; dispersing blood and fluid accumulations; swelling reduction; and relaxing muscle spasms.

Techniques Of Massage

In relation to sports injuries, the objective of any massage technique is to penetrate the injured tissues, without causing any unnecessary discomfort. There are six fundamental techniques of massage:

1. Direct Pressure Pressing

Direct pressure pressing will apply direct pressure in exactly the area that needs to be stimulated by massage. It is performed using one finger, a thumb, or the palm of the hand. The finger or thumb approach is most often utilized when pressing acupoints or treating smaller anatomical structures like an ankle or wrist. The palm may be more effective for treating more vast areas like the back. The overall purpose is stimulation of acupoints and directing blood, and other fluids into a particular direction or area.

2. Circular Depth Pressing

This type of massage technique involves two main elements- motion and depth. The technique starts with slowly pressing down into the skin and muscle tissues until you’ve reached the desired depth. While maintaining a consistent depth, begin making small circular motions with your thumb. Take an injury such as a pulled gastrocnemius (calf muscle) as an example. In this case, you would find the depth of the calf muscle, maintain this depth, and then make small circular motions with the thumb. Circular depth pressing is most effective when used on the small areas near joints or bones and is especially useful when there is a local blockage of blood or fluids that need to be dispersed.

3. Long Stroke Palm Pushing

Long stroke palm pushing is most often used when there is a large surface area to cover, such as the large thick muscles found in the legs. Begin by slowly and gently pressing the palm your hand into the muscle tissue. You will now make long stroking motions with your palm along the muscle. This technique can be greatly effective at relaxing muscles. It can also be used when trying to direct circulation into a particular area or direction and when trying to disperse stagnant pools of blood and other fluids.

4. Thumb Pushing

The thumb pushing technique is exactly like the long stroke palm pushing technique. The only difference is that it’s used for areas that don’t involve a vast surface area and the thumb is used verses the palm. It can be especially useful to focus on small areas near bones and joints and when working on the spaces between muscles.

5. Whole Hand Stroking

Whole hand stroking is mostly utilized when working to disperse swelling and stagnation and stimulate circulation in the upper or lower extremities. The whole hand is used to gently take hold of an arm or leg muscle. Your hand will then stroke the length of the muscle or extremity. This technique is superficial, meaning the stroking will only help to disperse blood and other fluids near skin level and in the superficial layers of muscle fibers.

6. Grasping And Lifting

The grasping and lifting technique is used in assisting tightened muscles to relax and in separating adhesions in the muscle fibers. When the tightened muscle relaxes, localized circulation improves and blood and other fluids flow freely. The technique involves slowly and rhythmically grasping and lifting the muscle tissue. It is often used on the shoulder, neck, arm, and leg muscles.

How Long Should The Techniques Be Performed?

There's not really any concrete guidelines regarding how much time should be spent performing any of the above massage techniques. There are going to be slight degrees of structural variations from person to person. Different areas and injuries will also react differently from one to another. So, just remember that the main goal of the massage technique is to get injured and/or tight muscles to relax. When there is a slight palpable softening in the muscle tissues, then you’ve often succeeded. You’re also attempting to reduce blood and fluid accumulations and soften muscle knots. All of this can take 1 minute or 15 minutes, it all just depends on the person and degree and location of the injury.

How Massage Relates To Bruises, Tight Muscles, Fractures, Strains, And Sprains


A bruise is an indicator that blood has become trapped and is accumulating in soft tissues due to the rupturing of a blood vessel. In most cases, this blood accumulation will disperse without intervention. However, if it congeals in the soft tissues, it will often result in acute pain and future soreness. This can often be alleviated by quickly applying a liniment after the causative injury occurs, as the liniment will immediately begin to disperse stagnant blood and relieve pain and/or soreness.

The liniment can be applied using the following steps:

1. Place a small amount of liniment onto the palm of the hand.
2. Gently pat the liniment onto the injured area.
3. Use three fingers or just the thumb to gently and gradually massage the liniment into the injured area. Continue to deeper tissues as the pain subsides, while also working at dispersing any accumulations and breaking-up any knots.

Sore And Tight Muscles

Sore and tight muscles can occur in a very wide scope. The tightness and soreness may just be from occasional too long or too hard physical exertion, but it could also be a much more serious indictor telling you that you’re improperly using the muscle or overtraining it to the point of injury. Tight muscles that occur chronically have long reaching impacts - from performance hindrances and increasing the risk of injury to discouraging athletic participation all together.

Those that massage sore muscles after and before any exercise activity will usually find it to be extremely helpful at reducing the soreness of the muscle, especially if a massage oil like the Sinew Sports Massage Oil is used in conjunction with the massage. The following steps can be used to massage a muscle with the Sinew Sports Massage Oil:

1. Use the grasping and lifting technique described above to gently and slightly lift the muscle away from the bone, continuing the technique until you can feel the muscle soften and relax.
2. Place some Sinew Sports Massage Oil onto either the thumb pad or palm of the hand and push along the muscles’ length, thereby pushing blood and other fluids through the length of the muscle and penetrating the liniment into deep muscle tissue.
3. Repeat this process a couple of times until you feel local warmth and think that circulation has improved.
4. Use the thumb pushing technique on any area that feels especially tight or that has a knot.
5. Lastly, you will use the whole hand stroking technique for additional relaxing and warming of tightened areas.

Fractures And Possible Fractures

The specific goal with massage of fractures is inflammation and swelling reduction and promotion of free flowing blood and fluids. This can be accomplished with gentle massage techniques applied both under and above the fracture site. There are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to massaging fractures:

* in cases where the break is severe, massage toleration will most likely be limited to only gentle and shallow stoking motions
* massage should only be attempted after seeking advice from a medical professional
* massage alone is not a treatment for fractures
* professional medical advice should be sought prior to massage in cases where there’s any uncertainty about the severity of the break or whether the injury is or isn’t a fracture
* never massage compound or open types of fractures
* never massage directly over the site of fracture

Strains And Sprains

Last, but certainly not least, is the treatment of sprains and strains using massage techniques. These injuries are to some degree more complex, mainly because there’s often swelling with the tendon and ligament damage. The treatment differs based on whether or not swelling is present.

In injuries that involve swelling, the following steps may be followed:

1. Gently press an outer edge of the swollen area with the thumb.
2. Apply liniment by taking the thumb and circularly pushing over the affected area.
3. Use the thumb to circular push the swollen area edge, while directing the push force outward.
4. The thumb or palm of the hand can be used to push outward from the affected area and help stagnant pools of blood get reabsorbed during normal circulation. An example of such would be swelling affecting the knee area of the leg. In this case, you would make several pushes from the knee toward the hip and several pushes from the knee toward the foot.

In injuries that don’t involve swelling, such as in a chronic injury, the following steps may be followed:

1. Reference the steps for sore and tight muscles, repeating steps one through four.
2. Use the thumb pad or fingers to circular push around the injured area, pressing down to reach the tissue of the injured ligaments and tendons. An example of such would be a sprained ankle. In this case, you would have liniment on the fingers or thumb, find the ankle joint, and then circularly press around it. Press just to the tendon depth and make tiny circular motions with the thumb if there is tendonitis.
3. Lastly, use whole hand stroking to further relax and provide warmth to the muscles and spur circulation.