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Massage for Athletic Performance Enhancement

Posted on: February 7th, 2014 by Eric Lichtfuss

Image courtesy CrossFit on the Square

There are many people who believe that regular massage should be part of an athlete’s training program.  There are also many people who question this, because of the limited scientific evidence to support claims of its benefit.  I feel like I’m awfully stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one, since I’m a pretty big fan of research, and evidentiary support for the claims I make about my work.  In debating this one with myself, it’s one of those situations that I’m OK with anecdotal evidence. While I hope that research grows to support the experiences many athletes and therapists have, I will have to go against the grain of science for a little while, and focus on the anecdotal evidence, and my own experiences.  Like the one I had with a client this week.

My practice is located inside a CrossFit gym, and if you know anything about CrossFit enthusiasts, you know that some of them are nutty about their “sport of fitness.”  I mean, insane…like their life depends on everything CrossFit (I say this as though I don’t ever get carried away, myself).

Well, we have a couple of those athletes in our gym, and one of them has been wanting to get in for a massage for a couple months, with the gut feeling that it would be just what her shoulders needed.  See, as crazy as she is about her CrossFit, she’s had some “catching” in her shoulders, specifically her right.

After an interview and assessment, I suspected that she might be suffering a minor shoulder impingement, perhaps primarily due to tension in the deltoid pulling the humerus up and jamming structures in the joint capsule together, and giving the supraspinatous too little space under the acromion arch.

So we focused on her right deltoid for a 30 minute session, which has a particularly taut band at the front edge of the anterior deltoid.  We managed to release much of that taut band, as well as some other adhesions in the deltoid and supraspinatus in the time we had.  I sent her on her way, with some self care instructions and told her I’d check in with her in a couple of days.

I didn’t have to.

That evening, she sent me a message saying that she was able to do three different overhead movements and lifts without any pain or clicking!  I saw her again this morning and she said that she worked out again last night, because the workout included overhead lifts, and she wanted to do them, now that she could.

We worked on her other shoulder today, in order to balance her out some, and we spent a little time with her right, to make sure it maintains.  This time I sent her home with instructions to be smart, and not rush herself back into a problem situation by overdoing it.

So, by virtue of clearing her range of motion of clicking, catching and pain, I have helped a passionate CrossFit athlete access more of her potential for better performance.  Do I think that massage therapy can help enhance performance?  You bet!  But if she’d been a part of a study about jumping performance, the results might not have shown an appreciable difference.  The personalized approach is the key to the best massages, and the best results – including performance enhancement.


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SensAbility is the teaching clinic of ASM Wellness
It's where Atlanta School of Massage, Atlanta Institute of Aesthetics and Atlanta Personal Trainer Program
provide a wide range of wellness services to the public.
2 Dunwoody Park South
Atlanta, GA 30338
Phone: 770-454-7167

2 Dunwoody Park South, Suite 105
Atlanta, GA 30338
Phone: 770-454-7167