My Sports Massage Therapist Experience & Action Plan
There is, and has been, tension in the world of strength and conditioning and physical therapy and chiropractic fields as to the benefits, application and need for manual therapy and things like foam rollers. I have personally been all over the spectrum and look to people all over the spectrum as well. Frankly, my goal is always to just call something what it is. To make sure that we’re not selling something or using verbiage that is misleading to consumers.
We must begin this episode with a slue of disclaimers – I am not a massage therapist, I am strength coach, and I am not prescribing you do something. You need to consult with your doctor or health professional on your own to determine treatment or if that is even needed.
That is IT. Period. Nothing else.
You’re probably, to my knowledge, not rolling out an adhesion or changing the actual tone of your muscles via a massage or foam roller. Okay. Fascia is like super fucking strong fibers that would take an astronomical amount of pressure to actually alter in any way. That’s why I have seen physical therapists on the “no need to massage or foam roll” spectrum make statements like “if I could change your muscle, I’d leave a dent in your leg.” Which I fully understand. BUT also, it’s grey. So is there NO benefit to massage? Or any manual therapy?
Studies that I have seen do not support increased recovery, lack of muscle damage post workout, or long term increased range of motion. Some of the claims we often hear with massage and foam rolling or other types of manual therapy. Don’t quote me on this, but I do believe there is support in increased circulation and causing a parasympathetic response. Especially with massage, these things would be beneficial.
So, I don’t know that the debate will ever end. We need far more research applied to strength, performance and muscle growth to make any bold claims I believe. You’re not lengthening your muscles with a foam roller. We know that. Okay? So use it for it is, turning up the volume of pain, causing temporary relief when said pain and pressure subsides. It’s quite possibly more in the mind than anything. If you’re going to follow that up with some mobility work, good on you.
That very smoothly leads us into why I sought out a sports massage therapist about a month ago now.
Whether anecdotal or not, I am fan of massage. Always have been. Largely because two distinct periods in my life when I physically felt my best were when I was regularly getting massages.
Those two seasons were after an extreme car accident that ended in 9 months of PT and 2-3 times per week with massage therapy. And the other, a very different situation – we were living in Chiang Mai, Thailand and we would both get massages every 3 days or so. They are like 10-15 per session there. They’re also the same every time. So no specificity but just a fantastic mid day full body massage 2-3 times per week. SIGN ME UP.
It should be noted that Nate and I don’t have health insurance. Coming off 2021 health was something that kept recurring in my personal journaling, as well as business weekly, monthly and quarterly reflections. Health for myself and my family. Obviously not having health insurance makes things more stressful. Where you’d normally have an ache or pain and just make an appointment, without insurance you lack that reassurance that so often comes from the doc, right? Normally it’s nothing, you’re fine. When I looked at the issues I was having with my body from a physical sense, I landed on massage as the first step.
I have worked with many many many chiropractors and physical therapists in the past. Mostly reactive rather than preventative. Which sucks – I wish you could see the PT when something is barely beginning versus having to wait for an injury, get an x-ray etc. That is also why I can’t stress enough that you are your own advocate and you are willing to do the extra work to find a practitioner who gets what you want, what type of life you live, and how you want your body to move. I get it. It takes time, research, and money.
So with all of that said, I had a pretty good idea of the areas I needed to get another set of eyes on. I mentioned in a previous episode that I’d been addressing a few things myself but that also lead to following someone else’s program for a bit. I was not being as successful on my own as I wanted to be. We just can’t see our own blind spots when it comes to the way we move and maybe some compensatory patterns we have. So, we hire help if we can.
My therapist is $120-150 per session without insurance for 60-90 minutes. I have only done 90 minute sessions and will continue to do so because she doesn’t massage the whole time. We assess and re-assess, work on drawing activation attention to certain muscles in an attempt to get others to calm down.
So how did I find her?
We started with the Google – I knew I wanted a female but we generally started with “sports masseuse” or sports massage therapist” Vancouver, Washington.
15 humans came up, which fully surprised me because several years ago I would have had to drive into a Portland (a larger city) to find a qualified professional. That also brings up – your physical location can be a real downer if you don’t have access to these services. Not just massage but doctors, physical therapists, RD’s – anything health.
From those 15 I weeded out the men so I was left with female therapists. Then dug deeper on each website. Let me just scream this from the freaking roof top – it’s 2022. Yes even if you have a brick and mortar, you need a freaking quality and clear website. If I can’t book online, I am not booking. If I can’t find what the shit it is that you focus on, I am not contacting you. If you don’t have reviews, how am I supposed to trust your service? I cannot stress enough how the weeding out process got down to two ladies VERY quickly due to websites and the fact that it was clear they were in fact sports or movement focused massage therapists.
The reviews made it VERY clear to me that Yaima was the place to go – many people with a background in kinesiology or in the health and fitness field go to her and had nothing but amazing things to say. For me it was that she sees the body as a cohesive unit. You might go in and say you want her to work on your upper back, but she is going to assess the whole body in multiple planes of movement, your strength and mobility and she will then make the call on what needs to happen, in an inviting manner.
I knew I was going to love her when the session began at the white board and she had diagrams of human anatomy and compensatory patterns all over the walls. This was not a fufu massage therapy experience.
I have to point out (and even she pointed out) that everything we worked on was temporary and that I would need to facilitate and inhibit different muscles before my workouts or throughout my day as I needed. And, I would borderline say she’s a better physical therapist than some physical therapists I’ve worked with and she’s not even a PT. I could say the same about Phillip Snell, the chiro I worked with after my herniation back in 2013/2014. I generally wish there was far more integration between these body focused professions.
Needless to say, I left her office with homework. And that homework gets additions if needed. It’s way too early to tell what my “result” is. I went because I wanted a professional’s eyes and hands quite literally on my body. And because I value the parasympathetic experience of massage.
My current list of areas I am addressing are:
Right upper fibers of adductor strength (so upper R adductor, but then L long lever – so like more gracilis and sartorius)
My lack of foot mobility in general and specifically my L big toe that broke playing soccer and never properly rehabbed
Both QL’s are short and weak (which often go hand in hand)
My R posterior External oblique is very tonic – so working to inhibit that and strenthen my internal obliques and also both QL’s
Both Psoas like my QL’s are short and weak. I am not AT ALL surprised by either of those.
L glute med and TFL need to chill the frick out. I never realized how short or tonic they were.
Rhomboids are just so aggressive but L supraspinatus and lat are both weak.
So like, I have some work to do. And I want to be so clear that this does not mean my body is falling apart or that I am broken or that this therapist just gave me a list of things that are wrong with me. I asked for this. So from that info, I consolidated the needs into a daily warm up, where my movement prep would normally go. So that 4-5 days per week I am working in some reps on this stuff.
And it opened my eyes to things I THOUGHT were going on based on feel like: thought my SCM was short and tonic. But after testing properly, my neck is actually hyper mobile and needs to be strengthened pretty much in all places. I thought my traps were super tight, and they aren’t. It was super interesting to hear feedback and see what I was really working with. Very much so feel that it was money well spent and I plan to continue to learn from here + get work done when we return from our cross country trip.
Bless the practitioners who give us guidance we can’t seem to find alone. That’s been my experience thus far and I am so so so glad I did it. When we’re in this for the long haul, it’s about so much more than just building muscle or strength. I want to trust my body and FEEL GOOD. I can then build any strength I want on top of that.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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