One of the few things I miss by living in the boonies is that there are limited options for continuing massage education; as such, I head to the city several times a year to get my fix. Each time I return, I’m energized by being with colleagues and refining my craft. I’ve always thought that if I had to move away from this perfect place (gasp!), sharing my passion by teaching would be one of the few benefits. I have absolutely no reason to move now, though, as twice a year, I’ll make the jaunt over the mountains to teach sports massage at the Port Townsend School of Massage!
What makes sports massage different than “regular” massage? Clients often ask me and I’ve been contemplating my answer while refining my curriculum for the class. I keep returning to two concepts: functional anatomy and sports massage as a way of thinking.
While many of my clients are athletes, nearly as many are not. But to me, sports massage still applies. Whether you are coming back from an injury from sport, work, or life in general, it’s my job to return you to the activities you love. Someone spending 40 hours a week ranching needs a well-tuned body just as much as someone training for an athletic feat. If an injury arises, getting the person back to full capacity is very important. My approach involves learning the specific movements the client does, how the client performs such movements, then treating all the different muscles that play a part in the action. Depending on the sport or job, when gravity or positional factors get thrown into the mix, the way in which muscles function often changes. For example, the textbook action of the gluteus medius muscle (deep to glute max, on the side of the hip) is abduction (moving away from midline) of the femur (Travell and Simons, 153). In daily life, however, our foot (and thereby thigh) is much more commonly fixed than our hip. So, when we stand and walk against gravity, this muscle plays a more frequent role in stabilizing the hip than abducting the thigh. This puzzle keeps me excited to share what I’ve learned and delve further into the topics I find endlessly fascinating: the relationship between anatomy and movement, physiology, and kinesiology.
One of the many things I love about my work is that, true to the profession, it’s a practice. My massage philosophy continually evolves as I learn more from books, classes, and my clients. Combining Swedish, deep tissue, myofascial techniques, trigger point therapy, neuromuscular techniques, and client education are all integral in effectively treating clients for whatever “sport” they take part in.