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No Pain Brings All the Gain

What comes to mind when you think if Sports Massage? Common thoughts are that

you’re going to be pummeled to the edge of screaming in pain, twisted like a pretzel

and to leave feeling as if you’ve been hit by a bus. Yes, we’ve all been there and the

“No pain, no gain” mantra has definitely been adopted as a belief of getting better

results out of a treatment.

I’m here to offer you a different perspective, which myself and other therapists are


Sports Massage Therapy works with the soft tissues of the body; your muscles,

tendons, ligaments and fascia. People seek SMT for a number of reasons and not

exclusively relating to sporting activities. SMT is effective for injury prevention, injury

recovery, to improve mobility, efficiency and function within movement and body

maintenance. Sports massage uses a range of specialised techniques; Effleurage

(gliding strokes), petrissage (kneading movements) active and passive stretching,

trigger point work, muscle energy techniques and soft tissue release. You might like

to ask your therapist the techniques they’re using.

You possibly think that battering a muscle, like Paul Hollywood vigorously kneading

bread or a professional wrestler jumping off the ropes and ramming an elbow into

your bum cheek is going to get the best results.

Repeat after me “The nervous system controls the muscles.” The muscles cannot

think for themselves. For you to experience the world information enters your system

through your five senses, vision, smell, touch, taste and sound. This information

makes its way through the nervous system to the brain, the brain will understand and

interpret the information and then send messages back out for a reaction in the body.

Reactions of tension in the body are normal when it occurs for example to move

muscles or to help us to withstand the effects of gravity. Other tension can occur in

our bodies when the nervous system is responding to stress, danger, potential

danger, injury or habitual movements or postures. Tension in the body can be

momentary or be held in our systems for months, years even decades.

You get cut up by another car on the road, your body tenses as you brace for

potential impact. Once you are out of danger you take a sigh of relief and the tension

can release from your system and you can carry on with your journey.

You have a stressful job, the workload is overwhelming. The thought of work, going

into work and being in work fill you with dread. You sit down all day at your desk, you

take the long commute and have no time to exercise. You may hold the effects of this

stress in your muscles without you knowing.

The grief, sadness and shock of a break up or bereavement may be held as tension

and restriction in your body. Holding tension is effort. It’s tiring and draining and lead to poor physical and emotional health. Tension is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural protective

mechanism, but this can be detrimental if it’s held long term. We need to let the nervous system know that we’re safe and in safety the nervous system will tell the muscles to relax.

As a massage therapist I am always mindful of creating a sense of safety. This

comes from a warm welcome, inviting you into a calm and relaxed space, chatting

during a case history, communication of your needs and my intentions, cosy blankets

and a sensitive touch. If I was abrupt, the room was cold and noisy, I expected you to

lay with no blanket on and talked to loud you may feel uncomfortable, you may not

trust me and it might lead to you tensing up.

As you feel safe, as your internal systems start to relax- slower heart rate and

breathing and your thoughts slow down the muscles will naturally start to relax.

Unsafe is like digging your fingers into a brick. If there’s an issue you’re never going

to find it. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get past the top surface and there’s likely

to be an injury. Safe is like your fingers slowly sinking into soft putty. As you sink

through it’s much easier to identify the injuries, restrictions and strains within the soft

tissues. We can then work on these to restore function and encourage healing. The

nervous system connects EVERTHING within us. An ache or pain is affecting

EVERYTHING within you, so releasing tension will in turn affect EVERYTHING.

You can’t sleep because of back pain, you need energy to stay awake so eat sugar,

this increases your heart rate, your body thinks you’re panicking, your breathing

becomes shallow, you’re short tempered. Yep…you get the picture.

We are all working at and often beyond our limits physically and emotionally. Why

would we then go and want to be attacked by another aggressive force. Be kind to

yourself and you can soften. When everyone is wanting things from you take a

chance to let someone be kind to your body and mind. Rather than digging our

hands in and telling your body what it should be doing, we’re sensitively feeling,

listening and reacting to the tissues. I could have an intention of “Your body should

do this,” but your nervous system may not be ready for that. In those instances,

maybe you do not feel a benefit, maybe it’s fine for a day, but then the problem

returns. If you’re focused on one muscle, rather than the whole system the muscle’s

like “phew that’s better,” but then turns around to sees the chaos behind it and gets

swept back in.

Responding to the body, working at a pace and intensity that is safe will allow and

give time for the nervous system to adapt and retain the patterns, working towards

optimal health and function.

Lets start “No pain brings all the gain.”

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