YES! Benefits could include boosting muscle tone, improving relaxation, and enhancing circulation. Swimmers who get regular massages could maintain better physical posture through better circulation, reduced muscle tightness, and improved range of movement.
Here are some massage etiquette items and what not to say (or do) during your next massage with PRO Massage:
- Ask your massage therapist to go see a movie / come to your house / etc. We strive to retain a professional relationship with our clients. That means that we prefer to see you in our professional setting alone. We will deny the invitation and suggest you see a different massage therapist, especially if your request is too suggestive.
- Excessive noises. Noises happen. Moaning when something feels good happens. Please don’t stare at us when you do it (yes, that’s happened), and just be aware that if you’re loud enough, the neighboring rooms might hear you as well. Please bear in mind that if that’s the only thing you do the whole time, we might think that you’re trying to get more out of the massage than what you’re paying for.
- Comment on our looks/attractiveness. Because of the years of misrepresentation in our industry, we tend to be slightly more sensitive to certain compliments. While we are professional in every massage, whenever someone comments on how we look, we can’t help but wonder if you are trying to shift the professional relationship.
- Poke your head out of the room to let us know you’re ready. We’re glad that you get ready for your massage so quickly. The problem is that we have to also be ready for the massage. That might include grabbing water, going to the bathroom ourselves, or just making sure that you don’t feel like you have to rush to get on the table. Also, your yelling down the hall isn’t relaxing for our other clients in their massages, so please be patient and wait for your massage therapist to return to the room to start your session.
- Start undressing while we are still in the room. Again, to maintain a professional relationship, we need to leave the room before you start disrobing. To make sure each client is always comfortable, we only expose what we work on as we work on it. Disrobing before we leave the room is exposing areas we are not currently working on, and it is distracting when we are trying to listen to what you need for that session.
- Touch us. We touch you. We don’t want you to touch us. That’s when it gets weird. And uncomfortable. And again, we might think that you are trying to shift the professional relationship.
- Be late and then expect us to give you your full-time. That includes showing up on time but taking a phone call for 15 minutes or talking to us about everything under the sun, preventing us from starting on time. We want to start you as close to on time as we can. If we end up starting late because the Massage Therapist is starting late, then you should expect your full-time, but not if you are late.
Swimmers prepare for intense competitions by spending many strenuous hours each day performing swim laps in the pool. Just like in any other sport, swimmers are prone to injury. Swimmers use all of the muscles of their body to exert tremendous force on the water and propel themselves to move forward at high speeds. At the end of the swimmer’s day, total body care is needed. Sports massage helps swimmers be healthy and strong, both mentally and physically, throughout the swimming season and beyond.
Four Common Swim Injuries
1. Swimmer’s Shoulder is the most common swimming injury. The repetitive use of the shoulders for performing various strokes can lead to overuse that can be harmful to the swimmer’s body. Typically, competitive swimmers have particular swim strokes that they perform more frequently than others, which means they use specific muscle groups substantially more than others. There is no way around it. This repetition of movement over and over can wear down the muscles over time. It is also common for the swimmer to adapt and change their stroke pattern to compensate for pain and muscle dysfunction. Athletes with swimmer’s shoulders frequently experience pain in the anterior lateral aspect of the shoulder – the muscles feel fatigued and weak. In this situation, it is nearly impossible for the swimmer to use proper stroke mechanics. The swimmer often continues to compete with improper stroke mechanics and this can cause even further problems for them over time. Sometimes the shoulder injury may be minor with mild discomfort and other times there may be major tissue damage that will take a long time to heal.
2. Swimmer’s Knee or “breaststroker’s knee” is another common injury that may occur to competitive swimmers. About 25 percent of all swim injuries are related to the knee. During the breaststroke, the swimmer repeatedly kicks the knee out to move through the water. If the knee is in improper alignment during this repetitive motion, the stress builds on the knee and creates swelling, pain, and muscle fatigue. The repetitive force creates pressure on the medial collateral ligament inside the knee joint.
3. Ironically, swimming provides successful relief of back and neck pain, but it can also be the root cause of back pain. Many swimming strokes require the athlete to hyperextend their back to lift the head out of the water. The combination of repetitive motion, stress on the back muscles for extended periods of time, and constant movement of the legs to keep the torso out of the water, all can lead to neuromuscular discomfort and muscle weakness in various areas of the back.
4. Just like with any other strenuous activity, swimmers are prone to muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are involuntary tightening of the muscle tissue that lasts anywhere between a few seconds to several minutes. For swimmers, arm and leg cramps are common. The muscle may contract to the point where it bulges into a hardened mass and creates terrible pain. Intense muscle cramps are tender to the touch. Also, they may soften and release and then cramp up again several times before fully letting go. Muscle cramps are uncomfortable, sore, and sometimes seem unbearable, causing the surrounding area to stiffen and limit the mobility of the affected area of the body.
Sports Massage for Swimmers
According to University Sports Massage Inc., regular sports massage offers these 10 benefits:
- Improves circulation
- Enhances recovery
- Decreases delayed muscle soreness
- Promotes flexibility and range of motion
- Muscle relaxation
- Reduces adhesions, swelling, and pain
- Promotes functional scar tissue development and muscle restoration integrity
- Reduces the likelihood of overusing injuries
- Warms or loosens muscle and connective tissue
- Improves mental focus
Massage therapy can clearly play a primary role in preventing swimming-related injuries. Maintenance sports massage therapy for the swimmer can assess the athlete’s body mechanics and observe postural and muscular imbalances. By identifying any improper alignment in the swimmer’s body, the massage therapist can help prevent injury down the road. The sports massage techniques applied can help promote flexibility, relaxation, and softening of the connective tissue as needed. Massage therapists can provide suggestions around how to develop balanced postural alignment using proper stretching techniques and encourage basic self-care strategies. Equally as important, regular sports massage helps swimmers manage the stress and anxiety that comes along with being a competitive athlete.
Pre-Event Sports Massage
Sports massage is also an asset before and after swimming events. Prior to a swim meet, gentle, relaxing sports massage assists in warming up the muscles, increasing circulation, and stretching the muscle tissues in preparation for a high level of activity. Deep tissue and highly vigorous techniques should be avoided prior to an event. A relaxation massage can help the athlete to focus and feel strong for their race.
Post-Event Sports Massage
Post-event massage is focused on soothing the muscles that worked the hardest during the swim meet. The massage is usually no longer than 60 minutes. Sports massage should help release muscle cramping and help relieve areas of pain with moderate pressure on the soft tissues, compression, stretching, and range of motion techniques. After a swim competition, a brief, effective sports massage can help to rest and rejuvenate the hard-working body and mind. Clinical sports massage is an effective therapy for swim injuries. As mentioned above, swimming injuries most often occur due to repetitive use, poor stroke mechanics, or overtraining. Massage therapy can help “identify the problem, facilitate healing, address dysfunction, return the athlete to optimal performance, and consider the activity biomechanics and recommend approaches to prevent injury reoccurrence (Woodruff, 2015).” Most importantly, sports massage is proven to assist in muscle resilience and recovery. Massage makes the body more receptive to recovery by bringing more circulation to an area, reducing scar tissue, decreasing pain, restoring range of motion, and helping reduce postural holding patterns. All of these things allow the body to recuperate faster and move again in a normal, healthy way. Sports massage is sensational at supporting the needs of competitive swimmers.
For swimmers who find themselves in swimming holes, lakes, streams, and beaches, there may be a different type of problem to consider. During the warmer seasons of the year, a swimmer’s itch is a relatively common ailment that affects the exposed skin of swimmers. Swimmer’s itch, or cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to an infection coming from certain microscopic parasites. The parasites are typically released from infected snails, swans, or ducks that swim in fresh and saltwater and find their way underneath a swimmer’s skin. The symptom of swimmer’s itch is:
- an itchy, bumpy rash that usually develops several hours after exposure to the parasite-infested water.
If left alone, within a few days, the rash usually disappears on its own. Swimmer’s itch is challenging to diagnose because the rash may be confused with many other common skin ailments. However, massage therapists should be aware of the possibility of cercarial dermatitis when working with their clients who swim in fresh and saltwater. Massage therapy is contraindicated for clients with swimmers’ itch. Massaging, scratching, or rubbing the skin will slow the recovery process and could potentially spread the infection from one person to another.
Benefits of Massage for Swimmers
Massage for swimmers could help prevent injuries while allowing clients to maintain their current physical condition. Benefits could include boosting muscle tone, improving relaxation, and enhancing circulation. Swimmers who get regular massages could maintain better physical posture through better circulation, reduced muscle tightness, and improved range of movement.
For professional swimmers, experts suggest massage should be used during training rather than pre-competition alone, though pre-competition massage could help if used in conjunction with other warm-up modalities. Retaining and improving the length of connective tissue and reducing soreness are some possible outcomes of effective massage therapy.
Other possible benefits include reducing swelling, improving flexibility, and supporting recovery. By breaking down muscle adhesions, massage can drive restoration of mobility after injury. It could have injury-prevention effects because it can help with restoring strained muscle fibers.
The best types of massage for swimmers
Depending on your client’s physical condition and training goals, you could opt for one technique over the other. Movements to treat shoulder stiffness and pain, friction technique, and muscle energy technique are some of the best options for swimmers. You’ll want to focus on breaking down scar tissue, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, counter strain, and positional release.
Generally, swimmers should avoid deep tissue massages for 48 hours after competing, because this type of massage can contribute to muscle breakdown and soreness. Massage after training shouldn’t hurt clients; it should feel relaxing. Ensure the client stays hydrated. Make sure they let you know if they experience pain or have any concerns during the massage.
1. Treating shoulder stiffness and pain
Shoulder stiffness and pain (including rotator cuff tendonitis) can result from overtraining, poor stroke technique, failure to warm up, and other factors. Stiffness and pain should be treated as soon as possible to prevent worsening of the pain and stiffness. However, massaging the surrounding areas could help reduce inflammation.
Start by applying strokes from distal to proximal above the swelling, as this could reduce fluid in the area. When the inflammation subsides, you can move on to other techniques such as friction and muscle energy.
2. Friction technique
Once the inflammation has subsided, applying friction massage techniques to the area could help you break down adhesions and scar tissue, and in turn help the client recover their range of motion in the area. Use the ball of your thumb to rub the area in circular movements.
3. Soft tissue release
Soft tissue release can be used to ease tissue congestion, encourage elasticity, and boost muscle length. It involves stretching the muscle and applying physical pressure to it as it’s stretched.
4. Relaxing massage
Relaxing massages, such as clinical massages and therapeutic massages, are suitable for off-competition and no-training days. These types of massage typically include effleurage and strokes to boost relaxation. Music and essential oils can promote relaxation.
5. Pre-swim massage
Pre-swim massages tend to be brisk and active, and as the term suggests, they’re designed to prepare the client for the competition or event. You might focus on specific muscle groups or on a particular part of the body relevant to the type of swimming the athlete will be doing. Techniques employed could include stretching, shaking, rocking, compression, tapotement, and range-of-motion techniques.
6. Post-swim massage
Post-swim massages are performed at least 10 to 15 minutes after the event. Allow the client to cool down and hydrate himself or herself before you start. In contrast to a full-body or deep-tissue massage, this type of massage uses calming techniques, broadening strokes, effleurage techniques, and therapeutic stretching. You might also include compression during the massage.
In some cases, it could be appropriate to encourage self-massage in clients. Options include self-massage with a tennis ball, with a focus on rotator cuff muscles. Foam rollers could assist with lengthening tight back muscles.
Massage techniques ideal for frequent swimmers
Swimmers, especially professional athletes, often need special attention to support recovery from injuries and strain. By learning about the best kind of massages for common conditions such as stiff shoulders, you can help yourself heal more quickly, reduce the risk of injury, and achieve better performance outcomes.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.