ancient Spartans, enemies of the Athenians in Greece over 2,500 years
ago, regularly applied an equivalent of modern sports massage
techniques to optimize their warriors' effectiveness.
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Sports massage may appear to be the latest "hot" thing, but in fact it's been
practiced for thousands of years. The ancient Spartans,
enemies of the Athenians in Greece over 2,500 years ago, regularly
applied massage techniques to optimize their warriors' effectiveness.
It is not surprising that many of the same techniques used then would
be familiar to a modern massage therapist, since they are an eclectic mixture of Swedish massage methods, Shiatsu
and other styles. Some basic movements are common across massage styles and even across centuries.
for example, is a long gliding stroke applied with medium pressure.
Usually done with a flat, horizontal hand using the palm and
fingers, the masseur slides firmly over the surface, working the skin
and muscle. On the return stroke, the therapist uses light
contact along a different path. The hands remain relaxed and
follow the natural contours of the back, chest, thigh and buttock - any
part being worked.
Effleurage is rhythmic, utilizing increasing pressure that gradually
stimulates more blood flow and relaxes tense muscles. During
this phase of the session, skin and muscle are warmed, nutrient flow to
the muscles is improved and toxins removed as the pressure creates an
active area in the body.
Petrissage is next. This is a technique that involves
kneading, focusing on more specific areas and going deeper into the
muscle tissue. Here lymph fluid can be encouraged to flow
well, blood flow is maximized and knotted muscles are worked.
As such, the techniques work best on large muscle groups such
as the chest, back and thigh. Still, smaller areas such as
the forearms, shoulders and neck can definitely benefit from petrissage.
Finally, friction is useful when properly applied. Repeated,
harsh rubbing over a specific spot will irritate anyone.
Smooth, circular motion that glides but doesn't tug,
stimulates skin and muscle. The thumb and forefingers are
great tools for sensing trigger
points, finding knotted muscles and seeking out lesions.
Here it's important for the therapist to work with the client to get
feedback about where there may be trouble spots. One client's
back proved to be interesting terrain. Working large areas, a
great deal of pressure and friction could be endured without
discomfort. But nearer the center, just outside the line of
the spine, the lightest pressure applied with the thumbs produced a
feeling like an electric shock.
Each person is a unique individual and basic techniques will need to be adapted
accordingly. Each sport uses slightly different muscles, or
uses them in a different way. The result is different
injuries, alternatives in muscle groups that tend to get stressed and
varying rates of healing. Using friction, for example, to separate
muscle fibers or loosen scar tissue, can be carried out vigorously for
one athlete, but may need to be approached more cautiously with another.
Keep in mind that dedicated athletes tend to push themselves too hard.
Don't contribute to the mindset by overdoing the effort.
The purpose is to relax and heal, but excessive force can
damage joints and muscle connections. Adopt the Hippocratic
oath used by physicians "First, do no harm".
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