Athletic events often offer massage the day of and at the event to prepare athletes for peak performance, reduce fatigue and muscle tension, relieve swelling, promote flexibility and prevent injuries. The modality commonly used in this setting is sports massage. Depending on the needs of the athlete, a variety of techniques are used.
Pre-event massage is usually done at a brisk pace using only lighter pressure and focuses on increasing circulation and warming up the tissues.
Inter-event massage is performed in between events that occur the same day, for example, at halftime or between heats at an event, and typically lasts no more than 10 minutes.
Post-event massage is applied at a more moderate pace, providing relaxation and relief from exhaustion while delivering oxygen to tissues and reducing metabolic buildup in the muscles.
Also known as seated massage, this technique involves the use of a specifically designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably. The modern massage chair was originally developed by David Palmer, but the technique is centuries old. Some Japanese block prints illustrate people who have just emerged from a nearby bath receiving massage while seated on a low stool.
Seated massage includes a variety of bodywork and somatic techniques, such as shiatsu and Swedish massage, provided to the fully clothed client in various settings, including businesses, airports, and street fairs.
Pregnancy or prenatal
Pregnancy places strong demands on a woman’s body and calls for extra nurturing and pampering. Performed by a trained specialist, pregnancy massage can be both effective and safe prenatally and during labor and postpartum periods of women’s pregnancies.
Prenatal massage not only helps to relieve the tensions and aches caused by the extra weight and shift in the center of gravity to the body, but it can also reduce swelling, soothe the nervous system and enhance the physiological and emotional well-being of both mother and fetus. Skilled, appropriate touch can help facilitate labor, shorten labor times and ease pain and anxiety.
In the postpartum period, specialized techniques aid to rebalance structure, physiology and emotions of the new mother and support her in bonding with and caring for her infant. Specialized training in the anatomy, physiology, precautions and contraindications is highly recommended and many practitioners require referrals from physicians prior to therapy.
The benefits of massage are not just limited to adults. Increased circulation, more effective digestion and deeper, more regular sleep patterns can help infants as well. Premature infants who received massage have shown increased weight gain, reduced stress, and better developmental progress. Dr. Tiffany Field, from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, scientifically studied the effects of massage on groups of infants in various stages of health or dysfunction. Babies born prematurely or with drug addiction, AIDS, breathing disorders or diabetic conditions have all shown improved health after receiving regular massage while still hospitalized, which decreased the amount of medical intervention needed and reduced their hospital costs.
However, massage can provide physical benefits to healthy babies as well and also strengthen the bond between the baby and the person giving the massage, since touch is a form of communication, and a new baby understands touch more than words.
For parents who are interested, there are infant massage videos, books, and classes available that will provide quality time for the infant and parent alike, whether it is used daily, weekly, regularly or just occasionally.
Massage for seniors
Most older people, whether they are in good health and active in sports and other pursuits, or have special needs, can benefit from massage. Sessions are typically shorter and tend to use lighter touch. The focus is on increasing circulation of blood and lymph, relieving pain and insomnia and improving joint range of motion. Other benefits include feelings of reassurance through personal attention and nurturing touch, which can be especially important for people who have lost their partner or spouse. For persons that are less physically active, the increased circulation of blood and lymph helps deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the cells and remove cellular debris. As a result, healing processes are more efficient.
Massage for seniors can take place at the therapist’s office, the senior’s home or in residential care facilities, depending on the situation and the health of the client. It may be contraindicated in certain cases, or require a referral from a doctor.
Information for this article has been compiled from AMTA’s and ABMP’s glossary of bodywork and massage therapies, as well as Mary Beth Brown & Stephanie Simonson’s “Introduction to Massage Therapy,” 2nd edition, and the author’s personal records.
Ata Susanne Morse has been a certified massage therapist since 1996. She has a private practice — Massage and Bodywork — in Moab, 435-260-2874; e-mail: email@example.com.