Does Sports Massage Work?

Sports massage has been reported to have many beneficial effects on athletes. Sports massage can be used for pre-performance, post-performance, during training or rehabilitation. It’s a popular choice from elite athletes to recreation exercisers.

What Is Sports Massage?

Sports massage is a manual manipulation of muscles aimed specifically at helping people who have physically demanding lifestyles and/or hobbies. This type of therapeutic massage considers the impact of certain activities on specific joints, muscle groups, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue groups. The conscious focus of sports massage therapy maximizes the benefit of certain massage techniques and encourages further physical exercise and activity. An initial assessment is used to develop a specially informed massage therapy plan that will meet the specific needs of each individual athlete.

What the Research Says

Research studies on perceived fatigue and recovery have shown that subjects feel less tired and feel that they are recovering more quickly after a sports massage. Decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, and increased sense of well-being have also been noted. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is reduced by sports massage, according to a wide range of studies.

Now for some of the benefits that are not supported by research. The ability of sports massage to help muscles get rid of lactic acid is not supported by research studies. Many researchers feel that this is linked to the fact that sports massage does not increase the flow of blood to the muscles. For example, a 2010 study found that blood flow was actually hindered mechanically by massage and that was a possible reason for impaired lactic acid removal. Faster recovery after a sports massage is not yet supported by research. Studies support that active recovery is the best way to reduce the amount of lactic acid that builds up after exercise and speeds up recovery.

So, what does all this mean? It seems that the positive mental (psychological) benefits of sports massage are indeed supported by research studies. The findings of the study also suggest that sport massage does not negatively affect performance, but that the positive (physiological) performance benefits of the body are not as clear. More research is needed on the positive effects of the body and also on the interaction between the mind and the body after a sports massage.

Who Could Benefit from a Sports Massage?

Athletic massages are clearly beneficial to people who play professional sports, but these athletes are not the only people who can benefit from sports massage therapy. The emphasis on athletics stems from the high rate of physical strain and damage caused by long-term participation in sporting activities, as well as the training often associated with them. However, there are many activities that can have an equal or greater impact on the physical well-being of the body. Let’s take a look at some of the many groups of people that could benefit from a sports massage.

  • Fitness Newcomers. Someone doesn’t have to be a “athlete” to take advantage of a sports massage. Whenever the body is physically pushed, it is important to properly manage the impact of the activity on the body. Massage can easily be part of both the assessment and the treatment plan. It is particularly important to pay close attention to the body when it begins or intensifies its activity.
  • Dedicated Athletes. There are those rare, talented, motivated people who aim to turn their sport into a profession. They are the top candidates for regularly scheduled sports massages. Getting to a career level in sport or athletic activity is a serious goal that will require serious planning, real dedication and professional support. Sport-specific massage can help dedicated athletes avoid injuries and injuries that could deter them from their goals or reduce their career aspirations. Sports massage therapy will help ensure that their rise to the top does not ruin their ability to have a long and healthy career once they get there.
  • Amateur athletes. The average person does not need to be a well-recognized or well-paid athlete to suffer the same injury as the professional. In fact, because amateurs lack the time and resources to practice and train the way most professionals do, they are likely to be at greater risk of accidental injury. Someone may have joined the Community Sports League. Someone might have the goal of running a marathon, a half marathon, or a 5k run in the near future. They may prefer to participate in more isolated, solitary physical activities such as acro-yoga or balance-training.