What is the difference between Sports and Remedial
It’s a question that some clients find perplexing… and I don’t blame them. Even as a practicing therapist I am constantly assaulted with new terminology in my industry that imbues me with wonder at how much new discovery can be attained in such a short period of exploration - the so called ‘latest trend in treatment’. Myo-something or neuro-tryptic is constantly thrust in our attention as the latest buzz word or ‘newly discovered modality’ that promises long lasting, immediate and miraculous results. It's a bit like the workings of Jesus, inexplicable but miraculous results in new found magical ways! Or is that the Harry Potter principle?
On a more fundamental level, most people coming for bodywork have a simple choice - Sports or Remedial Massage? Oddly enough it is the choice most are faced with when they type ‘massage’ in the search engine on google. Whether to include Sports or Remedial - that is if you want to avoid a whole array of ‘massage parlours’ popping up in your google search at work. (you don’t want to explain that to your supervising manager).
Sports and Remedial are two very different beasts indeed. The word Remedial indicates ‘to supply a remedy’. In terms of applying it to a health based doctrine, ‘healing, curing, curative’ are the words to determine the term Remedial. Sports is likewise a definitive term, implying action or activity of a sporting nature and a certain amount of physical exercise based in the action.
In looking at both genres, they are very broad. Both imply a certain amount of training and degree of understanding of the body, biomechanics and how to approach movement, training and pain. But they do differ in terms of qualification. Sports Massage is perhaps more generic in its undertaking and is usually applied at the Certificate IV level of a therapists training in Australia.
Remedial indicates further study into particular conditions and a management of acute or chronic pain as it influences daily life. Usually people who are suffering from a particular symptom or issue would be more inclined to seek ‘remedial help’ as a cure. This is also reflected in the qualifications of a Remedial Therapist, which in Australia is awarded at a Diploma level. Thus I call myself a Remedial Massage Therapist as opposed to a Sports Therapist. ie – I deal with managing pain and conditions.
Sports as the name suggests is dealing with managing sports people, both on and off the playing field. No matter what 'sport' you are associated with, there is a certain level of exertion and physicality that wears and influences soft tissue, joints and skeletal articulations. Sports Massage deals with ensuring the 'player' is in good condition to 'take the field'. It's about managing a person's physicality but also understanding their focus and mentality in approaching sport. It's about getting them 'across the line' or 'back on the court'.
The techniques involved in sports massage and type of massage is usually a very vigorous, fast, free flowing treatment that aims to circulate blood, get muscles flushed and loose or ready for the upcoming event. If you are having pre match sports therapy, it is a flushing fast motion that stimulates muscles without loosening them. The focus is on warming up the tissues and ensuring good blood supply. The muscles are and neurons are about to be put under stress, so you want them warm, active and 'pumped'. Post event sports massage has a similar focus but is also more to do with flushing out the toxins and waste by products accumulated in tissues after exercise.
Lactic and Uric acid are the two main 'waste' products of muscular contraction and these need to be flushed out of the tisses and muscles and into the lymph system to be excreted. This treatment is about assisting recovery and getting the player in the best possible shape for his/her next event. That could be the next day or next week. The fast, flowing nature of this massage is generic and aimed at fluid flow. Blood, lymph, Lactic Acid all need to circulate through the system quickly and efficiently both before and after sports activity.
remedial Massage is slightly different in that it is working with particular conditions, injuries, adhesions and structural alignments. This type of massage is much more focussed, particular and after a specific result. Usually the removal of adhesions (knots), changing the range of motion of articulations (joints) and creating more space for muscles, ligaments and joints to perform. This type of work involves detailed and specific work on sections of muscle or particular joints. It is much more articulate and usually involves working with areas pain and discomfort to achieve a change in conditions.
A good understanding of biomechanics, anatomy, nerve pathways, pain patterns, pathology and even endocrine and immune systems is necessary to evaluate and assess a condition and approach it from a Remedial perspective. It's much more analytical and less of the 'relaxing or therapeutic' approach. You are seeking a change in articulation and performance, so it is much more anatomical and investigative in nature. This type of massage can see a therapist working on a single ankle for a full hour, achieving a change in alignment or function at the most basic level. It also involves looking at bio-mechanics and the way a body functions in movement. An understanding of kinetic forces (movement forces) and the way a body behaves in movement is also presumed in this type of massage.
It's rarely a comfortable experience as you are working with pain. Stubborn muscles need to be convinced to behave differently. Bones and articulations need to be changed. You are working on convincing stubborn structures to function differently. It's not a free flowing, long strokes, comforting approach that sports is.
Which is more appropriate?
One of the differences in approach is that if an athlete or player, is going on court, a Remedial Treatment may not be appropriate as you are changing tensions and alignments of structures. This means bio-mechanics change. That can lead to 'instability' in a normally stable joint. In this case, deep Remedial work can be dangerous 'pre event' as the articulations or soft tissue need time to adapt or recover after such detailed work. It is as if they have already done a workout having been worked on the table. It can be appropriate to have remedial massage courtside if the condition warrants that approach. However, you would not want to work for an hour on an athlete courtside. Its like deep sustained stretching before a match. It turns the muscles 'off'. Tension is not present and the stability of joints is compromised. However, if you need to 'work a shoulder' courtside to increase immediate range of motion, then sometimes that is necessary to get function back. Its appropriate but even then, function can be compromised by instability. It's a judgement call.
So when it comes to choosing what is appropriate, identifying sports vs remedial can be important when you are communicating exactly what it is that you want to achieve with treatment. Understanding when it is appropriate to have remedial work and when you would prefer to have sports massage is important when you make your appointments. The two are intrinsically linked and any Remedial Therapist understands and uses sports massage, but it does help to identify what style you are seeking when you first arrive at an appointment. As a therapist it's always about getting the most appropriate treatment for the client and identifying this simple difference will help you decided what it is that you require. Then we can deliver!