To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice,” by Michael McGillicuddy, in the October 2010 issue. Article summary: “What is sports massage? Sports massage is the application of massage techniques to achieve a specific goal, performed primarily at an athletic or sporting event, or a sports-massage-specific massage clinic, rather than at a spa or general massage clinic. The goal of a sports-massage session is determined by the physiological response in the tissue you are intending to create in the athlete’s body.

by Stuart Taws

Late one Friday evening, my niece called and asked if I could get to her home right away. Her friend was in great distress, due for surgery next week, she was frightened and filled with fear. Because her pain was all over, she asked the doctor where they were going to operate. He did not have a good answer.

She had been a senior manager and data-entry operator for 20 years with the largest retail pharmacy in the country. Her problem was pain in the chest and neck, numbness down the arm into the hand, and blinding migraines. Her muscles were as tight as piano wires.

I told her about the referred pain patterns of the pecs, scalenes and posterior cervical muscles and how these can mimic much more serious conditions.

Because it was a soft-tissue problem only, she had nothing to worry about. We could take care of it that very night. At the end of the session, I showed her some specific stretches to do at home and that if she did them every day of every month, then she would never be in pain again.

The goal is to reduce fear and anxiety—the handmaidens of pain. If you provide information at the beginning of the session, encourage feedback during the session and then a powerful, forward-looking goal for pain relief at the end of the session, this is far more effective than the actual therapy you use.

She started to quietly weep. While I worked on her with a gentle pressure-and-stretch technique, she told me in all her sessions no one had ever physically touched her before. She was very bright and quickly perfected the active isolated stretches.

Information is key. She was out of pain in a week. I never had to see her again.

Stuart Taws is a sports rehabilitation therapist from England now living in California. For the past 20 years, he has been teaching pain-relief techniques across the U.S. For more information, visit