Sports & Deep Tissue Massage

Massage is non-invasive, relaxing and natural. It is therefore generally considered a safe treatment for most people. Regular massage increases mobility and flexibility of muscles and joints.

Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue the benefit a person engaged in regular physical activity.

Deep Tissue Massage is a technique for manipulation of soft tissue which has suffered injury and is causing pain or discomfort and results in restricted movement.

How muscles provide movement.

During movement bones act as levers. The brain sends messages to muscles to move the bones. During the mechanics of movement the joint acts as the fulcrum, the muscle is responsible for effort and weight gives the resistance.

When movement is required the brain sends a message via a nerve telling the muscle to contract. Each of the muscle fibres contract to shorten the muscle until another message tells it to relax. The muscle then returns to its original shape. When muscle fibres contract they follow the all or none rule, i.e. each fibre contracts to its full capacity or not at all.

The strength of contraction depends on the number of fibres contracting at the same time. In order to contract when it is stimulated, a muscle fibre must have an adequate blood supply to provide sufficient nutrients and be able to remove waste products.

The effects of massage on muscle and other soft tissue

Promoting healing of damaged tissue and muscles

When you have an injury you become less mobile and metabolism and associated healing slows down. Massage stimulates the healing process by warming the tissues and increases blood flow. This allows better transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the affected tissues and removal of waste products which speed up the repair process.  Increased blood circulation and temperature help the tissues become more pliable. Parallel muscle fibres may be separated, the connective tissue stretched and the fibres stretched longitudinally. This helps restore flexibility and separate adhesions.

Soft tissue is connective tissue and includes skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems in soft tissue that are caused from repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma. The application of sports massage, prior to and after exercise, may enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.

Preventing injury

One of the most important benefits of sports massage is the prevention of injury by helping to maintain healthy muscles. Tight muscles are not able to function at their best and increase the possibility of injuries.

Improving flexibility of muscles

Massage allows muscles to relax and this will result in an increased range of movement.  This has a direct effect in extending the limit to which the particular joint or joints can move.

Removal of waste products

Massage is an important means of helping muscles recover from fatigue. By increasing blood and lymph circulation, waste products resulting from exercise are removed more efficiently and the supply of nutrients to the muscles is enhanced. This can help speed up recovery and so increase performance potential.

Effects of massage on muscle and soft tissue

  • Speeds up healing of damaged tissues and muscles
  • Increases fitness capabilities & increases performance potential
  • Helps prevent future injury
  • Helps clear out waste and toxins
  • Breaks down adhesions & enables faster healing
  • Improves elasticity & flexibility
  • Enables peak performance to be achieved more rapidly
  • Relaxing
  • Relieves tension & fatigue
  • Breaks down adhesions & scar tissue
  • Improves and affects blood flow
  • Stimulates healing process

Below is some information on muscle function and injuries:

The principles of force and motion.

The basic properties of muscle are contractibility and elasticity. Muscular contraction may be isotonic or isometric.

Isotonic contraction

The muscle shortens and moves the point at which it is inserted and so the tension is used performing work that is moving some part of the body. In isotonic exercises the muscles contract and there is movement but the force remains the same. This improves joint mobility and muscle strength. e.g. bending the elbow (can see) = isotonic

Isometric contraction

No external work is done and the muscle does not shorten so the tension that is produced is to oppose some other force e.g. gravity, or when muscles are used when a limb is made to push or pull against something that doesn’t move. The same muscle may at one moment contract isotonically and another moment isometrically. e.g. extended elbow (cannot see) = isometric

Types of muscle work

Concentric – (contracted muscle, as in flexion, bending the elbow)

This occurs when the origin and insertion approach each other and so the muscle becomes shorter and thicker in appearance and feels harder. Normally the insertion approaches the origin but this may be reversed in certain cases

Eccentric – (Abdomen as in raising legs and returning to the floor)

This occurs when a muscle is in action but the attachments are drawn farther apart either by gravity or some outside force (human or mechanical) and the muscle becomes larger and thinner but still feels hard.

Stages of the healing process and treatments available.

Acute/inflammatory phase

The aim immediately after injury is to aid narrowing of the blood vessels. This is called vasoconstriction. This will stem the flow of blood and reduce the amount of inflammation. By applying ice or cooling immediately after an injury, the level of swelling and amount of blood allowed to leak out can be reduced.

Compression and elevation will also assist this. This treatment is remembered by the commonly used acronym ‘RICE’, which stands for;

Rest –Ice –Compression – Elevation.


Rest the injured part immediately to prevent further damage. This means ceasing activity immediately and moving the injured area as little as possible.


Apply ice as soon as possible, for 10-12 minutes to slow down the inflammation. Do not wait for the swelling to start. This causes a reflex action which narrows the blood vessels supplying the area and reduces blood flow.

Reapply ice every 1-2 hours during the acute phase. Do not keep the ice on for any longer than the time stated above because the body will react by dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to warm the cold tissue and stop the cells dying which in turn would increase the swelling.

Never apply ice directly onto the skin, as this can result in ice burns. Wrap the ice in a cold damp cloth (a dry cloth will not transmit cold effectively). The cooling also produces a pain relief effect which helps to reduce muscle spasm. Do not be tempted to continue playing when the pain is been relieved.


Apply a compression bandage to help minimise the swelling of the tissue. Apply firmly, but not too tight. The bandage should cover the whole site of the injury to contain the swelling. Compression helps prevent swelling by increasing the pressure on the tissues and therefore limiting the amount of fluid that can enter the area.


Elevate the injured area to reduce blood flow and limit the use of associated muscles.

Repair phase

As swelling reduces, the repair process begins. Muscle does not produce new tissue so replaces damaged areas with scar tissue. Within 2-4 weeks this tissue becomes stronger and as scar tissue develops it becomes fibrous and inelastic.

The new tissue is not as functional or strong as healthy muscle and is estimated to reach only 70% of the tensile strength of surrounding muscle tissue. Scar tissue is not as strong as muscle tissue and shrinks by up to 30% as it continues to form so it is important that exercise and stretching start in the repair phase in order to make the whole muscle along with the newly formed tissue strong and supple.

In some instances the new tissue becomes ‘sticky’ and inflexible and the muscle fibres stick together causing adhesions.

Remodelling phase

The final stage takes place around 3 weeks to maybe a year after the injury. Cell activity returns to normal and scar tissue matures. As scar tissue develops deeper and firmer massage is needed to stretch the newly formed collagen fibres in the direction of the muscle fibres.

Due to poorer blood supply, tendons and ligaments take longer to heal, so strengthening exercise should be introduced as soon as possible to stimulate the healing process.

Connective Tissue Massage (CTM)

This is a stretching movement rather than massage, Using CTM, adhesions in the connective tissue are broken up and relaxed. This is done using the tips and pads of the fingers and pressure is used.

This technique is particularly useful after injury. It speeds up the removal of waste products from the tissue and relieves pain and stiffness. Deep tissue massage performed after exercise will hasten the removal of lactic acid and relieve pain and stiffness.

Creatine phosphate system.

In order for a muscle to contract, it needs large amounts of energy. A nerve impulse is also required form the brain to initiate action. The body’s ability to create energy relies on a compound called adenosine trisulphate (ATP) which is made in the muscle cells. When exercise begins creatine phosphate, a substance stored in the muscle combines with adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and forms ATP for energy production. After around the first 10 seconds of exercise stores of ATP are depleted and the muscle will convert ATP from carbohydrate that is stored in the form of glycogen.

Each muscle fibre is innervated by a nerve called a motor neuron. A single motor neuron supplies a number of muscle fibres and collectively they are known as a motor unit. Communication between the nervous system and muscular system occurs at the neuromuscular junction or motor end plate. For a muscle fibre to ‘fire’ a nerve impulse arrives at the nerve’s endings which are located close to the sarcolemma (the cell membrane of a muscle fibre). The gap between the nerve ending and the muscle fibre must be bridged for the nerve impulse to activate the muscle and is achieved indirectly by the secretion of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh)

Depending on the particular muscle, a single motor neuron can innervate from one to several hundred muscle fibres.

Muscle tone     

This is a description of achieved by the contraction of a few muscle fibres at a time and is essential for maintenance of posture in the sitting and standing position. This slight contraction will tense but not move the muscle. When different groups of fibres contract at different times giving this slight tension, it is called muscle tone.

The constant changing over between different fibres in the muscle prevents the muscle becoming fatigued. When someone is not very active or does not use their muscles regularly, fibres do not contract as they should. This reduces muscle tone and the muscles become more flaccid.


Muscles with more than normal tone can become spastic (tight) as muscles are over contracted leaving them rigid.

  • A contraction which increases muscle tension without changing its length is called an isometric contraction.
  • An isotonic contraction is when the tension remains the same, but the muscle is shortened to give movement. (Isometric contraction helps in posture, isotonic contraction helps lift heavy weights.)

Muscle fatigue

When muscles are used continually, oxygen and the energy foods become used up and there is a build-up of a waste product called lactic acid. Muscle contractions will become weaker until they eventually stop. When all the muscles are fatigued the ligaments and tendons have to support the body and it collapses. (This sometimes happens to athletes in marathon races)

Once oxygen and energy are restored to the muscles the waste products are removed and it will be able to work properly again.

Aerobic system

The aerobic system functions with oxygen. It involves activity over three minutes duration. Aerobic exercise is physical exercise involving energy utilised in the presence of oxygen, such as long distance running, swimming rowing etc.

For this type of activity the fuel used is carbohydrate stored in the muscles as glycogen. Sugars and starches are broken down and released into the bloodstream as glucose and then stored in the muscles as glycogen. The hormone insulin plays an important role in the transfer of blood glucose into muscle glycogen

Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’. During aerobic work, the body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel can be meet by the body’s intake. The waste products formed are carbon dioxide and water. These are removed as sweat and by breathing out.

Aerobic endurance can be sub-divided as follows:

  • Short aerobic – 2 minutes to 8 minutes (lactic/aerobic)
  • Medium aerobic – 8 minutes to 30 minutes (mainly aerobic)
  • Long aerobic – 30 minutes + (aerobic)

Aerobic endurance is developed using continuous and interval running.

  • Continuous duration runs to improve maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max)
  • Interval training to improve the heart as a muscular pump

Aerobic threshold

The aerobic threshold, point at which anaerobic energy pathways start to operate, is around 65% of maximum heart rate. This is approximately 40 beats lower than the anaerobic threshold.

VO2 Max

Fitness can be measured by the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Those who are fit have higher VO2 max values and can exercise more intensely than those who are not as well conditioned. Numerous studies show that you can increase your VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65 and 85% of its maximum for at least 20 minutes three to five times a week. A mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 litres /minute and for female athletes it is about 2.7 litres /minute.

Factors affecting VO2 max

The physical limitations that restrict the rate at which energy can be released aerobically are dependent upon the chemical ability of the muscular cellular tissue system to use oxygen in breaking down fuels and the combined ability of cardiovascular and pulmonary systems to transport the oxygen to the muscular tissue system

Anaerobic glycosis

Anaerobic exercise is the physical activity of a short duration. From around three seconds to around three minutes. It involves using energy produced without oxygen. High intensity exercise such as sprinting utilises the anaerobic system. It also produces the lactic acid that causes rapid muscle fatigue.

The anaerobic lactic energy system involves the breakdown of glucose or glycogen to pyruvic acid. This process is known as glycosis. Without oxygen this becomes lactic acid which stops the energy production. The anaerobic threshold, the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulates in the muscles, is considered to be somewhere between 85% and 90% of your maximum heart rate. This is approximately 40 beats higher than the aerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold can be determined with anaerobic threshold testing.

Muscle cramp – Muscle cramp is a painful uncontrolled spasm of the muscle. It is caused by a prolonged tightening of that muscle, leading to it being shortened. Cramp often occurs as a result of overusing the muscle. It can also be attributed to training faults, fatigue, tight clothing especially socks and shoes, cold weather and often happens after profuse sweating. Can be eased by applying ice first and then slowly stretching the muscle. Applying direct pressure over the muscle trigger point and massage will also help.

Muscle spasm – Results from persistent increased tension and shortness in a muscle or group of muscles that cannot be released voluntarily

Sprains – A sprain is caused by a ligament being overstretched, twisted or torn resulting in an injury to a ligament when the joint is carried through a range of motion greater than its normal range without dislocation or fracture. It causes tissue and ligament damage with local tenderness and swelling.

Strain – Overexertion of soft tissue caused by over-exercise, injury or excessive effort. Causes pain and swelling.

Shin splints (or compartment syndrome)

Strain of the flexor digitorum longus muscle occurring in athletes, marked by pain along the shin bone which increases with continued activity. Caused by training too intensely on a hard surface.

Rotator cuff injuries

These muscles consist of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis. Injuries often consist of inflammation of theses tendons causing pain, tenderness and restricted movement. Often caused by injury or fall or due to inadequate warm-up.

Chondromalacia patella

Abnormal softening or degeneration of cartilage of the joint, due to repeated minor impacts or occasional major impact on the knee joint or prolonged static or dynamic load on the knee such as sailing, skiing and weight lifting. Causes pain in the knee when walking up and down stairs and hills with more pain felt going down.


Painful inflammation of the tendon at the outer border of the elbow resulting from overuse of lower arm muscles (as in twisting of the hand,) caused by long standing compression (racquet sports) Pain is felt over the outer elbow increasing in intensity on certain movements that stress the tendon.

Muscle soreness (DOMS) (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

Often develops around 24 hours after unaccustomed exercise and can last 33 or 4 days. Different theories on the causes include disruption to the Cytoskeleton of the muscle fibres.


Inflammation of the connective tissue (or fascia,) that encloses muscles and muscle groups.

Plantar Fasciitis

Inflammation of the point of attachment of the fascia in the sole of the foot to the calcaneus (heel bone) causing pain and localized tenderness in the heel. The inflammation can take 6-12 months to subside.

Tendinitis (tendonitis)

Overuse of a muscle causing inflammation and scarring of a tendon resulting in loss of strength in the muscle.

Soft tissue injuries

Includes tear in a muscle, scar tissue, fatty nodules, oedema or tension. All of which will reduce the ability to perform

Muscle fatigue

Waste products of metabolism accumulate in the muscles faster than they can be removed.

Areas we serve

We serve a wide variety of clients from across the West Midlands. If you are looking for sports and deep tissue massage in Stourbridge, Bridgnorth, Wolverhampton or Shrewsbury, why not give us a call?