DIY Sports Massage

Relieve muscle soreness with do-it-yourself sports massage.

What’s the most important part of a good workout? Your recovery!

Athletes must keep in mind that muscle growth comes during rest periods. You can ruin the greatest workout in the world if you don’t have the proper recovery habits.

I’m always lecturing my athletes about nutrition, rest for recovery, stretching and lastly, what I term “body flush” or massage. 

At the conclusion of a workout I like athletes to rehydrate (protein drink & water), do an active cool down (rowing, bike, vibration plate), light stretching (static), and self massage (ball, roller stick, foam roller). It’s the last one that I’d like to discuss because it’s easy, inexpensive and has a variety of recovery benefits.

Myofasial release, trigger point therapy are also terms used to describe this form of massage.  Self massage techniques stretch muscles and tendons and breaks down the scar tissue and adhesions that result from training.

The benefits of self massage are:

  1. Flushes the body of lactic acid and toxins.
  2. Decreases inflammation (soreness, stiffness).
  3. Restores flexibility and range of motion.
  4. Improves circulation to speed recovery.
  5. Decreases stress.
  6. Restores muscle tone.

Self massage is quite simple. By applying pressure by hand or using your own body weight you can treat different areas of the body. Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of sophisticated equipment.

Self Massage Devices

Foam rollers:  Generally a foam cylinder with a variety of surfaces, diameters and densities.  Smoother and larger diameter rollers have a milder effect while knobby, smaller surfaces provide a harsher massage effect. These are great for large muscle areas.

Athletic Balls: Tennis balls, baseballs, softballs, lacrosse or golf balls. Basically most types of sport balls can work. Just think the smaller the diameter the ball the deeper the muscle tissue penetration. Denser or harder balls provide a more aggressive massage feel than softer spongier or pliable balls. Balls are great for a more targeted approach to smaller sites of tension or discomfort.

Roller sticks:  These devices are pretty inexpensive ($20-$30) and easy to travel with. Basically they are sticks with rolling discs or knobs on them that allow you to move the stick or rub over the muscle area. “Range Roller” or the “Stick” is popular brands.  I like these because they can also generate a little surface heat as well as hit large muscle areas.  This makes them great for warm-up.

Here are some sites with exercises on the use of self massage devices:

Foam Roller: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/flexibilityandstretching/ss/FoamRoller.htm

Roller stick: http://www.ehow.com/how_2301823_use-massage-sticks.html

Tennis ball: http://www.ehow.com/how_4670254_massage-back-tennis-balls.html

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Stephanie Harper November 08, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Thanks Aaron. I went for a run on Friday morning and came back with outside knee pain for the first time? I think I might try using one of these products. I also do yoga which can help too.
Aaron Thigpen November 17, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Use the foam roller, baseball or tennis ball and roll out your IT bands (Side of the leg, from the hip down to the knee). A lot of runners knee pain comes from tight IT bands. It will sting but do about 20 rolls on both legs. Best to do it after a warm bath or shower, the muscles will loosen easier.
Stephanie Harper November 20, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Ah, makes sense. I really haven't had any issues until recently. I've only been running over a year. Thanks for the tips!


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