Sports Massage: Common Techniques and Benefits

By: Amy Montia, LMT

As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I often often hear many of the same questions concerning Sports Massage. Among them are:

  • Can Sports Massage Therapy help reduce injury risk?
  • Can Sports Massage help catch discomfort before it becomes an injury?
  • Can Sports Massage help improve physical AND mental performance?
  • Can Sports Massage improve flexibility and range of motion?
  • Can Sports Massage speed up recovery and minimize soreness?

The answer to all of these questions is, simply put, yes.

Our bodies like to move. We function best when we get regular daily activity… and enjoying our sport makes us happier and function better! This is reason enough to consider sports massage: to help you keep on doing the activities you love to do.

You don’t have to have specific sport credentials or ability level to consider sports massage. Anything goes – Crossfit, marathons, daily jogs, morning swims, brisk walks, basketball league, weekend soccer, tennis, kickboxing, skateboarding, gardening, painting, dog walking, or herding your kids around town (yes, being a caregiver counts as a sport too).

Sports Massage uses a constellation of soft tissue techniques depending on what your specific situation and needs are.  After a brief assessment and conversation, your therapist can help you to come up with an individualized treatment (and perhaps treatment plan for future sessions) that will best fit you.  Here’s a rundown of some (but not all) techniques commonly used during a sports massage and their benefits:

“Swedish” Techniques (Effleurage, Petrissage, and Muscle Stripping):

Swedish massage techniques are helpful to minimize stiffness, soreness, spasm, and tightness after intense workouts.


The term effleurage comes from the French word  “effleurer” meaning to glide lightly. With oil, therapists use their hands or forearms to glide superficially across a region, often in a slightly circular motion directed toward the heart and lymph nodes.


The term Petrissage comes from the French word ” petrir” meaning to knead. Petrissage kneads muscles and fascia to loosen the area and increase local circulation.  The therapist uses palms, fingertips, knuckles or forearms to squeeze, wring, lift and roll muscle tissue and fascia. Pressure and depth vary from superficial to deep tissue.

Muscle Stripping

Using a thumb, elbow, forearm or fingertips,  therapist glides along a muscle, in the direction of the muscle fibers using oil for controlled glide. Muscle stripping helps restore normal muscle fiber length, identify trigger points, and promote local circulation.

Myofascial Release

Good for addressing larger regions or lines of tightness that dont respond to other muscle work. Often, groups of muscles and nerves get trapped under adhered connective tissue.  Myofascial Release helps to address this.

Fascia refers to the layered bands of fibrous connective tissue that wrap and surround all muscles, bones and organs.   Inflammation, trauma, repetitive stress and postural imbalances create adhesions and restrictions (“snags”) in fascia. To release myofascial snags, fascia is stretched or bended slowly in a focused area until a change in the tissue is felt.  The goal Myofascial Release is to warm up irregular fibrotic tissue, then “iron” it out to make it more aligned and flexible.

Trigger Point  Therapy

Trigger points are palpable hypersensitive knots found in taut muscle bands. They often create a characteristic referred pain pattern and twitch response in surrounding muscle tissue when pressed.  To deactivate trigger points, pressure is applied to the knot until a change in the tissue is felt. Deactivating trigger points helps decrease pain and restore circulation in the affected area.

Trigger point therapy (and myofascial release too) can feel pretty intense at times, so these techniques offer a great opportunity to work on improving diaphragmatic breathing.  Diaphragmatic breathing (described in an earlier post by me) is a highly efficient form of breathing in terms of O2/CO2 exchange for our tissues, and it helps regulate our body’s nervous system- both key factors for improved sports performance.

Active Release Technique

Active Release Technique is good for areas of local pain and overuse/repetitive stress conditions.  ART (Active Release Technique) is a patented soft tissue technique that treats adhesions and entrapments around muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.  Specific areas are treated by applying direct tension, then having the patient actively or passively move the joint through its range of motion to release the adhesion from surrounding tissues.


Acupressure stems from Shiatsu Japanese bodywork therapy which is based in principles of classical Chinese Medicine.  Applying pressure along specific acu-points helps to regulate meridians to restore smooth qi flow, release local tension and encourage alignment of mind, body, and spirit. When aligned, our spirit is full and bright, our mind is calm and clear, and our body becomes strong and resilient. After all, in the sport of life, this is what we truly need to achieve our optimal self.

Sports massage has many different techniques, applications, and benefits. And these are just some of the most common! Look for more information on sports massage in future posts or on our Sports Massage Department page. Until then, if you’re in the neighborhood, book an appointment at Physio Logic. We’d be glad to have you. You can start by filling out the form below or just call us now.

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