Sports massage is reported to have many beneficial effects in athletes. Sports massage can be used pre-performance, post-performance, during training, or for rehabilitation. From elite athletes to recreational exercisers, it is a popular choice. Learn more about what it is used for and which benefits are supported by research.
What Is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport.
Many different movements and techniques are used in sports massage. Examples of these techniques include; Swedish style massage, effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), compression, friction, tapotement (rhythmic striking), vibration, gliding, stretching, percussion, and trigger points. These movements and techniques are used to try to help the athlete’s body achieve maximum performance and physical conditioning with a decreased chance of injury or pain and a quicker recovery.
Many benefits from sports massage have been reported based on experience and observation. Some are beneficial to the mind (psychological) and some to the body (physiological).
Some of the reported benefits of sports massage include:
- Increased joint range of motion (ROM)
- Increased flexibility
- Increased sense of well-being
- Decreased muscle tension
- Decreased neurological excitability (nerves more relaxed)
- Decreased muscle spasms
- Better sleep
Purported benefits that are not supported by research include:
- Increased blood flow
- Increased elimination of exercise waste products
- Decreased chance of injury
- Decreased recovery time between workouts
Possible side effects of sports massage are tenderness or stiffness for 1 to 2 days after the sports massage. A skin reaction due to the massage oils is also possible. But for the most part, sports massage is safe.