You don’t need to set records to get rubdownsAdd the word “sports” before massage and the term suddenly becomes intimidating.
Sports massage: sounds like it’s much more strenuous than a massage. Sports massage: for elite athletes only. Sports massage: what you should get after you run a marathon. But if you didn’t finish in the Top 5 of your age group, don’t bother.
Actually, do bother. The benefits of sports massage ― the loosening of tight muscles and recovery from fatigue and stress ― work for everybody, says Jung Byeong-hyo, a local masseuse.
For athletes, sports massage helps reduce the trauma the body suffers during heavy exercise. It flushes out toxins that build up in the muscles, speeding recovery and reducing the risk of injury, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. This form of therapy has become a key component for athletes striving for better performance. “It’s as much a part of an athlete’s critical discipline as a carefully monitored diet,” the association says on its Web site.
But the same holds true for amateur athletes, and even more sedentary types. The clients range from their 20s to their 50s at Nogku, an Itaewon beauty salon offering a variety of massages. Most get sports massages to relieve stress or ease physical ailments. The massages are said to ease pain and reduce swelling and bruising from muscle stress.
How important is your choice of a masseuse? A good therapist can recognize problem areas. The typical problem areas for men are the waist and kidneys, according to Seo Sung-ho, a masseuse at Nogku. Women have problems in the waist and neck.
For sports trainers, learning sports massage is a way to develop a holistic approach to the body. While the California Fitness Centers in Myeongdong and Apgujeong-dong don’t offer sports massage, many of the club’s trainers have learned it. “It helps them learn about therapy for the entire body therapy and how to stretch certain muscles,” says Kelvin Goh, a club spokesman.
But what’s the difference between sports massage and other massages? The goal of sports massage is to maximize athletic performance and physical conditioning and to lessen the susceptibility to injuries or pain.
Sports massages come in two types: maintenance and event-related, depending on whether they’re done before or after a sport.
Before an event ― a game or race ― the treatment is short and designed to improve blood circulation, flexibility and mental clarity. It’s a complement to stretching and warming up; not a replacement.
After an event, the aim is to cool the body down and return it to homeostasis. Two areas of concern are muscle cramping and inflammation.
There are 700,000 sports massage centers in Korea, according to the Korea Federation Sports Massage, an association representing the industry.
The numbers may indicate sports massage’s popularity, but it’s important to note that it’s not a regulated industry. With so many to choose from, how can you tell who’s good?
“The easiest way is to read the sports masseuse’s body. A good sports masseuse is built like a large athlete ― big arms or bulk on the upper body,” says Seo Sung-ho, a masseuse at Nogku. Consideration also counts: Warm hands feel better than cold hands.
The massage works the entire body. So you should speak up ahead of time if you’re uncomfortable with the masseuse touching certain areas of the body, or if you’re experiencing pain.
Don’t eat right before the massage, but drink lots of warm water. Note, however, that a sports massage usually takes an hour to complete.
How often should you get a sports massage? Mr. Goh recommends no more than once a week. Any more than that can have an adverse effect, tiring your body.
by Joe Yong-hee