By Sue Shekut, MA, Clinical Professional Psychology, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For the record, sports massage should not be painful. Let me say it again. Sports massage should not be painful. Especially not excruciatingly so!

Sports Massage of lower legs muscles post race

Sports Massage of lower legs muscles post-race. 

Journalists tend to write about massage as though it were an endurance sport, rather than a therapeutic tool. Which is unfortunate, because while articles like “The Sheer Hell of a Sports Massage,”   are humorous, they also provide a great deal of misinformation and may cause people to fear massage. The article author,  Andrew Griffiths, writes that he found sports massage to be a hellish pain to be endured. He also provides a fair amount of inaccurate information about sports massage removing “toxins,” and “realigning the muscle tissue and connective tissue  fibres” and describes being misdiagnosed (inaccurately, yet unknowingly) by his sports massage therapist as having plantar fascilitis.  Sadly, this author’s understanding of sports massage was not enhanced by his experience with Vaska, his “sports” massage therapist.

Hopefully, however, the author, Mr. Griffiths, and readers, will pay more attention to the comment on the article made by a fellow science-based massage therapist, Jason Erickson.

Mr Erickson, massage therapist, personal trainer, former competitive athlete, therapist educator, and sports therapist for elite athletes clearly, concisely refutes most of Mr. Griffith’s points and explains that sports massage should not be painful.

As Mr. Erickson’s comment is so articulately written, yet it is buried under ads and other links to articles on The Telegraph, I am reposting the main points of his comment with credits to Jason Erickson. In his comment, Mr Erickson notes:

When working with athletes (and those aspiring to become athletes), a competent sports therapist focuses on restoring/improving function as quickly as possible with minimal risk of causing tissue damage, nor of reinforcing neurological protective responses to innocuous sensory input. As a protective output of the brain in response to perceived threat, pain is something that competent sports therapists should seek to avoid triggering in their clients. There are many, many ways to achieve positive results without pain being a component of the treatment experience, and in my experience pain usually indicates that I need to adjust what I am doing to minimize/prevent it.

In this article, Mr. Griffiths also stated, “Sports massage works deep in the muscles, realigning the muscle fibres and connective tissue, and flushing away the toxins. Regular sessions will increase joint mobility and flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury during exercise.”

Not one part of this statement is correct. Thirty years ago, these are things that were believed, but science has advanced considerably since then. I don’t know where the author encountered these claims, but I question the veracity of his source(s).

It would have been more accurate to restate that paragraph thus: “Sports massage works with all of the body’s tissues, from superficial to deep, often via neurophysiological mechanisms. Functional changes in the recruitment of muscular, vascular, and other systems may accompany reduced pain and improved performance. The nature and timing of sports massage sessions may vary considerably depending on the athlete’s training/competition schedule, and a good sports massage therapist will be prepared to educate the athlete accordingly.”

If you take the time to read the article, hopefully for the laugh factor, then scroll down to Mr Erickson’s comment and read a more realistic, (albeit less humorous) explanation of sports massage. If you are an athlete, or have any muscle related pains, you will be glad you educated yourself about sports massage so that you can find a sports massage therapists like Jason Erickson, not like Vaska, to save you from painful, potentially damaging,  sports massage!

And how do you find a knowledgeable, science-based massage therapist like Jason Erickson, versus a novice with a poor understanding of human anatomy, massage therapy and the nervous system like Vaska?

First off, when you call a massage therapist to book an appointment, ask him or her questions about training, their experience with athletes and how they view pain in massage. If the massage therapist tells you something like, “no pain no gain,” hang up the phone (after saying goodbye politely) and call another massage therapist!

If the massage therapist tells you that he or she will work to help relax your nervous system while they work and aim to reduce your pain, not increase it, then you have a good chance of receiving an excellent sports massage!

Readers, what is your experience with sports massage?


Jason Erickson

Jason Erickson, NCTMB, CPT, CES, BBA, BA, AA

More About Jason Erickson

… from his company website, Keep in Touch Massage Eagan, MN
Jason Erickson, NCTMB, CPT, CES, BBA, BA, AA

Originally from Rochester, Jason studied Pre-Law, Marketing and Economics for his undergraduate degrees by day while practicing martial arts and vocal performance by night. He pursued a corporate career until he discovered the benefits of therapeutic massage and corrective exercise while rehabilitating from some injuries. Inspired, Jason became a certified personal trainer (CPT), then entered massage school and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Jason loves continuing education and may be found teaching classes when he isn’t attending one! He holds National Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB), certification in Bodywork for the Childbearing Years® (pregnancy massage), Myofascial/Fascial Release, American Council on Exercise Personal Training (ACE-CPT), and is a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He has also studied orthopedic massage, sports massage, positional release technique, dermoneuromodulation, structural integration, assessment and treatment of headaches and neck problems, foot/ankle/knee injuries, massage for cancer patients, etcetera. Jason is also an advanced practitioner of Active Isolated Stretching, a powerful method of increasing pain-free range-of-motion, strength, balance, and neuromuscular integration and function.


Related articles

Massage Myths That Need to Be Trashed by Nick Ng.

Toxins, Schmoxins by Paul Ingraham

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Many years ago, I started practicing yoga. Back then, doing yoga at work was seen as “odd” or unusual. Now yoga is so mainstream that apparently working at Huffington Post allows young office workers to balance work and yoga by performing asanas at work. Click this link for a true yoga at work photo series entitled,  “These Photos Prove You Really Can Do Yoga Anywhere.” Check it out!

I am a big believer that seeing is more effective than telling when it comes to body movement. HuffPo, seems to agree. Watch the video, “5 Yoga Poses To Get You Through Your Midday Slump At Work,” to learn how to do some yoga poses at work. The HuffPo Desk Yogi demonstrates Seated Cat Cow, Seated Twist in your chair (Which requires no chair arms or this won’t go well), Mountain Pose (Side stretch), a forward bend with flat back at your desk (L pose), and a standing forward fold (Forward bend). Personally I could do with out the shots of the desk and twigs and flowers in this video, but it is  a quick look at easy poses most anyone can do to improve flexibility and release tension.

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I admit, I am a fan of the occasional corn chip, But I do try to eat healthy and watch my fat intake. It is funny how most corn chip brands now advertise “NO TRANS FATS.”  Hmm, since corn chips for the most part have not ever used trans fats, this is like putting a label on celery that says “NO TRANS FATS.” Saturated fat is still fat and for those watching their fat and oil intake, finding no fat chips can be a daunting task.

I used to be a fan of the Guiltless Gourmet Baked Corn Chips. However, over time I noticed they “reformulated” the chips and basically, added some oil to fatten the chips up and make them take “better.”  They once had 0 grams of fat and now a serving of 1 ounce of chips contains 3 grams of fat. And they are expensive, and no longer available at Whole  Foods Market from what I can tell.

Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Chip nutrition facts.

Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Chip Nutrition Facts

So what to do for that periodic low fat corn chip fix? Try making your own at home! It can be less expensive and less oily.  Check out this post and video showing you exactly how to make your own corn  chips at home from the Lindsey who writes the Happy Herbivore blog.


Photo from the Happy Herbivore Blog. Check out the recipe and make your own!

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Hint, it is not Dr. Oz nor any of the websites promoting products based on the sites own anecdotal “research” studies. One of the frustrations people experience with the news is knowing what news sources are reputable and knowing where to go for solid, evidence-based scientific reporting. Many people did not take a research methods class in school and wouldn’t know a p-value from a pretzel. So, how do you know who to trust and where to go for science-based research reporting?  Nick Ng took the time to do some in-depth research into research sites and he provided the following advice listing the sites he recommends and why in this post in the Guardian Liberty Voice

Mr. Ng recommends one of my favorite bloggers, Paul Ingraham, who writes saveourself.ca. Mr. Ingraham explains his work on website as “Twelve years of publishing science-powered advice about your stubborn aches, pains, and injuries. I study the science of aches and pains — musculoskeletal health, which is often surprisingly weird and interesting — and translate it for patients and professionals, about 25,000 of you every day as of early 2014. “

Paul Ingraham, SaveYourself.ca Publisher
ScienceBasedMedicine.org, Assistant Editor

Nick Ng is a Movement Coach, a Certified Massage Therapist and Founder at Movement Potential in San Diego, CA. In his spare time, Mr. Ng free lances as a writer.

Nick Ng
Nick, Ng

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

As much fun as Warrior Dashes and Mud Runs can be, getting back to nature, pursuing physical fitness and having fun…there is a potential health hazard you may want to consider before you decide to get down and dirty.

Click the link here for the full story!

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

After the long winter, many of us are struggling with a few extra pounds. But is the cause of weight gain an attempt a t human hibernation or is it emotional eating? Check out this short article on WebMD about the causes of binge eating. Elizabeth Lee, writes about former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, MD’s comments about how our biology and our neurology are culprits in the overeating process. Read the post, “Compulsive Overeating and How to Stop It” here.  Then have a carrot and a cucumber!

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s cold. It’s winter. It’s Chicago. Children (and parents!) can get antsy sitting indoors with nothing to do. Here are some mostly free events and activities for Chicago area parents and children to do when it is cold outside!

Windy City Hoops

Free basketball at Chicago Park Districts For Boys and girls ages 12-18. Fridays 7-10pm and Saturdays from 5-10pm available at ten Chicago park district locations. Click here for more info or to sign up.
Windy City Hoops
Windy City Hoops

Chicago Park District Ceramic Studies

Chicago Park District has Ceramic locations throughout the city that offer the opportunity to play with clay from casting to wheel and hand building. Click here for more info and list of the ceramic studios.

Chi League Parks

Offered by Nike, free basketball skills clinics in citywide parks, giving Chicago’s children a safe, healthy place to play. For kids ages 9-12 and 13-18 years of age. Saturdays from 10am to 2pm the free clinics take place before Chicago Hoops in Chicago area indoor gyms. Click here for more info. (Note dates on the website are for 2013. Call the park District for dates for 2014.)

Chicago Public Library

Chicago area libraries have all kinds of events, from Toddler time and story time events to LEGO time to lessons on learning how to crochet and knit. Teens can attend the FUSE workshops which gives them opportunities to  complete challenges in robotics, electronics, biotechnology, 3-D printing, and Android app development. And families can attend “Game Night” to play board games and card games in a  warm comfy environment. Click here for the Chicago Public Library event page. (Note: each day lists events so you may want to use narrow your search by selecting the event type and your zip code.

Free Days at Chicago Area Museums

Chicago Parent magazine provides a listing of free days at our local museums here.

Chicago Area Art Spaces For Kids

Jeanette Nyberg’s Artchoo Blog here provides a listing of all the Chicago area Art spaces that cater to kids or provides kid friendly classes and events, Some of them may be free, others may have a fee, but this is the best list of art for kids in Chicago I’ve found. And her blog is really great for parents that want to expose and involve their  kids in crafts. Great for kids that are hyperactive or diagnosed with ADHD.

Photo from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photo from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago website
Call or check the web sites first for unexpected closings or events.
 Time Out Chicago‘s Liz Plosser created  a great list of a few really fun places for parents to take kids during the winter here.

Her list includes:

Broadway Armory Park

Chicago Park District’s Indoor recreation building at 5917 N Broadway. Gym and track open Mondays-Fridays 7am to 9pm. Indoor climbing Wall open 6:30pm-8:30pm (Register online at chicagoparkdistrict.com)

Grounds For Hope Café

Three themed  play rooms in Lisle, IL: Treasure House, Wonder House and Tree House for kids to explore. Grounds offers  craft classes, Spanish lessons and music courses as well as the big play rooms. Free Wi-Fi for parents. 2701 Maple Ave, Lisle (630-390-1290, groundsforhopecafe.org). Free. Ages 10 and under. Open Mon–Sat 9am–7pm; Sun 9am–1pm.

Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens

Chicago Park District building in the South Loop boasts a climbing wall and a jungle gym and playhouse with padded floor. Located at 1801 S Indiana Ave (312-328-0821). Free. Ages six months–12. Open Mon, Fri 9am–6:30pm; Tue noon–6:30pm; Wed noon–5pm; Thu, Sat 1:30–4:30pm.

Related articles
• CBS Chicago’s Best Bad Weather Activities For Kids In Chicago click here.


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