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Self-Massage for Athletes

by by Rich Poley

listed in massage

This is a book written by a long-standing athlete, i.e. not a massage professional, for the lay person. In this text the author aspires to show self-administered massage that can be easily carried out by the athlete, and to explain the mechanisms of massage in layman terms. In a way he achieves this, albeit that it is not always clear where he pitches the level of tutoring. In the first chapter he states that anyone can carry out a massage and that, like himself, you don’t need to be formally trained. Yet, when he explains the physiology and benefits of massage in later chapters, he quotes and refers to some 25 standard text books used by the professional massage therapist.

In Part I of the book (chapters 3 to 7) the author gives a brief history of massage, covers the effects and benefits of massage on the circulation, stress, pain and mood. He also asserts that self-massage is a way of transferring energy and information to cleanse and feed every cell in your body and that massage produces its powerful effects by converting mechanical energy to thermal, electrical and chemical energy.

The role of massage in sports is covered in this section; how massage affects the muscles, how it can be used before a workout, during the workout and following the workout, and how massage also helps to prevent injury and shorten recovery time. The topic of endorphins takes up a few pages and the author summarizes that endorphins are natural chemicals produced by your body to reduce pain and make you feel better, and that self-massage is a healthful way to produce endorphins. It is worth noting here that the majority, but not all, of the research and clinical findings on the physiology and effects of massage are all derived when the massage is administered by another person and, in most cases, on the whole body. Whilst it is true that some of the effects can also be achieved with self-massage, these benefits are certainly limited. Relaxation, for example, is really best achieved when the recipient is receiving the massage. Massage does indeed improve the circulation and can therefore be applied by the athlete for muscle pain, and help to get rid of some of the bi-products of muscle work. When administered as self-massage the effect is limited to a local area, for example a limb or a muscle.

Part II of the book is about the strokes and routines of self massage. To describe the strokes the author uses very simple language like gliding, squeezing, squeeze and roll, pressing, press and roll and drumming. Illustrations of the strokes are used but the actual explanation is very brief. The descriptions are however rather brief. More detailed explanations would facilitate comprehension and enhance the effect of the massage strokes. It is amusing to see a new massage movement which is included in this section for sports massage. This is the ‘Rock & Roll’ technique where you stand up and dance to your favourite music. Including dancing as a massage movement gives rise to questions about the significance and authority of the text. Such critique can be discarded however as the text is aimed at the lay person and not the professional massage therapist.

The following couple of chapters portray massage strokes which can be used for the body regions i.e. the hands, the arms, the shoulders, the back and so forth.

Accompanying each list of strokes for a body region is a full page photo of a model. These photos, apart from being very arty and perhaps of questionable ethical appropriateness, serve no purpose at all. The reader would have learned a lot more had there been illustrations to augment the actual massage strokes.

Part III of the book shows other forms of self-administered bodywork/massage work which includes acupressure and trigger point treatment. These generally fall in the realm of the professional massage therapist and are likely to be less effective when carried out as a self-massage. Doubts about the safety also crop up when such techniques are carried out by the lay person. Self-administered massage is of great value and has its place in sports but it also has its limitations. It is therefore commendable that the author included a section on contraindications in chapter 18.

This book can be handy for those athletes who are keen to experience self-massage. It has easy to follow layouts and makes use of uncomplicated terms. More illustrations and in-depth instructions would have made it more appealing, practical and valuable.

Further Information

Available from and

Mario-Paul Cassar
Two Hand Press

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