Article by Sports & Exercise Medicine doctor, Amal Hassan.

Summary:

  • Head of Sports Massage at TEN Health & Fitness, Peter Dipple.

  • If you train > 5 times a week, you should seriously think about having regular soft tissue therapy to aid your recovery (but not on a DOMS day!)

  • Passion and high standards, with a good understand of biomechanical theory.

  • Usually £70 for an hour, and range from 30-90 mins.

  • Buy in bulk at a discount.

  • Educational, engaging, with great client rapport.

  • Leave with reduced pain and stiffness, a greater sense of lightness and range of motion, and fundamentally, having been listened to.

  • Expect to have your muscular weakness exposed!

  • HIGHLY RECOMMENED

 

Generally speaking, the mere prospect of exercising gets me out of bed in the morning, but sometimes, it gets to Thursday and I have trouble even rolling under the duvet! Although happy in the knowledge that the whole-body pain I’m experiencing probably means I’ve worked really hard, the stiffness and that terrifying sensation of premature aging lead me to believe that on this day, rest is unavoidable, and a voice in my head says “no, you can’t go to Barry’s today”. Urgh.

 

It was one such Thursday afternoon that I made my way to TEN Health & Fitness in the City, to meet Peter Dipple, Head of Sports Massage (http://www.ten.co.uk/our_team/peter-dipple), having just broken my own rule and gone to Barry’s anyway. You can imagine what sort of a state my body was in.

 

I had been looking forward to sitting down with Pete to get a feel for what the working philosophy is at TEN, as well as what he personally believes to be fundamental to the effective recovery from exercise. After all, he has been working in sports therapy for 11 years, and has treated Olympic and recreational athletes, as well as NHS patients.

 

The set-up at TEN makes a lot of sense to me as a Sports & Exercise Medicine doctor. They are a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) of physiotherapists, soft tissue (or massage) therapists, and fitness trainers, who at the very heart of their practice, believe in preventing injury through the acquisition and maintenance of functional strength. They run CPD workshops for their staff, and learn constantly from each other’s experience in the athletic world.

 

One of the first things I asked Pete was who should be adding regular sports massage into their training regimen, already anticipating the answer. As I suspected, “anyone who trains five times a week”.  Okay, so that’s me (guilty face). Timing is also important; no to heavy, strong or deep tissue massages on the day of a big event, nor on a day when your muscles are particularly sore (DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness typically sets in 48 hours after a heavy session). For comforts sake, rather than safety. Pre-event, lighter massage techniques can be useful in switching on certain muscle groups that are typically inactive for you, and post-event, it will aid recovery. One week after a marathon is an ideal time.

 

The first thing that struck me about Pete was his passion for his work, and how high his standards are. His firm belief in the role that soft tissue therapy plays in the everyday care of an athlete is based on years of experience, and translates to the care of recreational athletes and fitness fanatics. In fact, he says, “…it should be prioritised”. He recently contributed to a post in Men’s Running Magazine (http://mensrunninguk.co.uk/interviews/injury-prevention-tips/), and is loud and proud about his philosophy at TEN.

 

Soft tissue therapists do not work on the skeletal aspects of a joint, distinguishing them from osteopaths or chiropractors, and so do not perform the sorts of manipulations that send shivers down my spine. Although the jury is out on what the exact physiological and structural mechanisms are that result from massage techniques, Pete’s experience suggests that people can expect reduced pain and stiffness, and increased range of motion following soft tissue therapy. Work-life-training balance, he says, are skewed against us, however, and as such, he would recommend that a handful of therapy sessions, alongside risk management (e.g. issues with training load/type, posture and even how you hold your bag) would be an ideal approach to sorting out your muscular niggles in the long-term.

 

On the day I met Pete, I had a veritable list of aches, pains and discomforts, which I carefully made note of, so that I could assess the difference his treatment made. This is what I wrote down:

 

  • Tight & overactive Pec Major bilaterally

  • Sore triceps

  • Sore muscles in the posterior triangle of my neck

  • Sore right quadratus lumborum (lower back muscle)

  • Tight & overactive TFL and Glute Med inhibiting R glute max especially (don’t worry if that makes no sense to you – R hip was tight, and butt muscle switched off as a result!)

  • Weak right VMO and adductors (inner tight)

  • Sore right adductor

  • Neural tightness in upper and lower limbs (longstanding)

  • Tight gastrocnemius bilaterally (longstanding)

 

Not a short list then, it’s a miracle I was able to walk!

 

It was reassuring to hear that during treatment, Pete’s focus is on the cause of pain and not the pain itself. The therapy is more than just a massage. In the Sports Medicine world we appreciate that muscular tightness can be a sign of muscle imbalances or suboptimal muscular patterning, but those of you who aren’t biomechanics geeks would be excused for not seeking out the sort of therapist who understands this. Referring to the above list - as long as the underlying issues were soft-tissue related, Pete said I would feel the difference instantly during and directly after the session. If they weren’t, his advice would be to have it checked out by a physio or medic - reasonable and safe advice.

 

The treatment lasted an hour, and in that time, Pete didn’t focus too much on symmetry of treatment, but went straight for my problem areas. In appreciation of the fascial sling theory (how the connective tissue linking your lower and upper limbs span right to left, and left to right respectively), he focused on my right hip and left shoulder, using pressure and movement at the same time to open me up anteriorly (important for cyclist, psyclists, and those that sit at a desk hunched over alike). He identified the muscular weakness underlying my sore/tight areas, and was thus able to make suggestions about where I needed to strengthen up. He noticed straight away that I carry my huge gym-sack on my left shoulder, potentiating the tightness in my left shoulder anteriorly, and told me I ought to think about getting a good rucksack (I’ve known this for a while but hate to admit it). He even went as far as recommending some exercises to release those muscles even further – something every good therapist should be able to do in my opinion.

 

I honestly felt amazing after the session. The pain and stiffness in the above areas were alleviated almost instantly, confirming that the issues were soft-tissue related in nature. In the short-term at least, I was hyperconscious of my improved posture and later changed my bag to a rucksack equivalent! I left feeling listened to, and engaged with. In fact, it was a surprisingly educational session. My perception was that Pete’s vast experience meant he didn’t waste time getting to the areas that needed work, having talked to me beforehand, he knew exactly what needed to be done.

 

I felt a little drained following the session, which is normal, and my left shoulder felt sore later into the evening and the next day, but it subsided, and didn’t hold me back from activity. Pete had forewarned me that might be the case anyhow.

 

The hour-long sessions are priced at £70, which I can understand is a hefty sum for most of us, but as a one-off (at the very least), I think a Sports Massage at TEN is a must for any fitness enthusiast. I will definitely be back. Once you’ve felt the sheer relief of these sessions, I don’t think anything quite lives up to it, and you realise what you’ve been putting up with for all these weeks, months or years, and it is not okay! It also sets you to thinking about your training habits, and how, perhaps, you’re neglecting some areas and overusing others. Food for thought my friends.