Common Problems in Athletes
Often athletes can't identify the specific problems they are having, they just know they are experiencing pain. "Many athletes will come in complaining of aches and pains, stemming from their lower backs, but they don't realize what it is," Owen explained. "The majority of times, it's a sciatic nerve problem. A lot of people don't know the term, but they can identify the feeling and pain. I usually know right away according to what kind of sport they're involved with and their complaint."
Runners tend to have a lot of shin splints and sciatic nerve problems. "When working on runners, I usually focus on the legs, shins, thighs and hamstrings," Owen said. "I always tell them that if they aren't careful and their hips aren't balanced and aligned properly, it can dramatically change performance and alignment of your body. You could seriously injure yourself. It's important to stretch first and get aligned regularly. Wearing comfortable shoes helps too."
"Cyclists are really tough to work on. Their muscles are generally tighter than most athletes," explained Owen. "And they have to be really comfortable to get a massage because their groin muscles and the inside of their thighs are what need the most work. I make sure to employ proper draping and talk them through it so they are prepared and comfortable." Draping is a technique where therapists cover the entire body with a sheet and expose only the part being massaged.
Triathletes will often have many of the common alignment and muscle issues runners and cyclists have. "If I had only an hour to spend on a triathlete, I would start with their legs, get deeper work into their glutes and hips, and work on their mid-back area."
"Swimmers generally tend to have the least amount of pain out of the athletes I work on," Owen said. "But I always focus on their upper bodies—rotator cuffs, traps and neck muscles—since that is the most-overused part of a swimmer's body."
Do-it-yourself Bodywork Muscle Aids
Here are some do-it-yourself techniques to soothe overworked muscles and relieve muscle pain:
- Tennis Balls: Lay on the floor with a tennis ball—lay on top of it where your tender point is and roll around on the muscle for a few minutes, breathing deeply. You should feel a release.
- Muscle stick or rolling pin: Have someone roll it on your muscle for release.
- Biofreeze: Good for acute injuries; prevents them from getting worse.
- Tiger Balm: Best for chronic and long-term injury and pain. The eucalyptus settles the muscles and produces a long-lasting effect.
"The body is an interesting thing, but unlike our cars, we're stuck with them for the rest of our lives," said Owen. "Why not take care of it now, so instead of being stuck in a wheelchair watching your grandson play basketball—you can be on his team playing with him."
Mary Owen is a certified massage and bodywork therapist with a concentration in sports therapy and myofascial release. Her practice is based in San Diego, California. Visit?www.marystherapies.com?or email?her for special rates on massages.