Massage has been around for centuries, appearing Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese cultures, and even finding its way into may holy books including the Bible. In modern times, massage is usually performed by a professional or increasingly through personal massage devices. It has been known to have therapeutic properties for patients, from athletes to cancer patients.

Massage is the manipulation of surface tissue as well as deeper muscle or connective tissue. It has been used for centuries to promote healing, enhancing muscle function, relaxation and overall improvement of well-being. During a massage, the body is acted upon by pressure, tension or massage tools. While a person can apply pressure and tension to some areas of the body, massage tools allow for a person to reach every area of the body, without a professional. 

What is Sports Massage?

Sports massage is any type of massage designed for athletes, usually to improve performance in some way. Because of the intense pressures of competition, elite athletes try and gain a competitive advantage in whatever way possible. Many have experienced the benefits of massage, using it before and after workouts and during recovery times.

The following techniques can be used for an effective sports massage:

  • Effleurage (stroking)
  • Petrissage (kneading)
  • Compression
  • Friction
  • Apotement (striking in rhythm)
  • Vibration
  • Gliding
  • Percussion
  • Stretching
  • Trigger point therapy. 

The combination of these basic strokes can be targeted for an athlete to achieve a desired effect: maximum performance, recovery, or pain/soreness reduction.

Sports massage is usually performed on muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia tissue, skin, joints or other connective tissue. These areas of the body are prone to injury during everyday life and especially during sports/physical activity. Even is an area is not sore or injured, it is probably not 100%. Problems can quickly arise and cause pain or debilitating injury, so massage it vital for long term performance.

Benefits of Sports Massage:

  • Improve recovery times
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve flexibility
  • Improve blood flow
  • Remove metabolic wastes/improve efficiency of waste removal
  • Increase range of motion in joints
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Reduces the chance of injury

There have also been many benefits associated with a decrease in perceived fatigue, allowing athletes to compete longer and harder than they could previously. Many athletes feel a psychological boost as well as a physical one after a sports massage.

Below are a list of studies that prove the effectiveness of massage in sports to decease pain and soreness, improve recovery times and help prepare the body for exercise.

Studies on Massage Benefits:

In one study done by The Br J Sports Performance Institute in 2004 found that among performance cyclists: a significantly lower fatigue index was observed in the massage trial than compared to non-massage.

Another study done on female collegiate athletes in 2005 found that between a massage group and control group, that massage had the effect of decreasing soreness and improving vertical jump.

In 2008 a study was done by Dr. Butterfield, et. al, and found that when people were subjected to cycling for 30 minutes and then massage was applied to the leg muscles that there was a dramatic benefit. "We conclude that subjecting muscle to compressive loads immediately after exercise leads to an enhanced recovery of muscle function and attenuation of the damaging effects of inflammation"

And finally, when children were given a massage treatment before workout, Dr. Beider, et. al. found that children could exercise more effectively, saying that: In this study, peak heart rate, peak VO(2), and peak minute ventilation were higher when children received a massage before exercise testing.