A sports massage has many beneficial effects in athletes and can be used pre-performance, post-performance, during training, or for rehabilitation. From elite athletes to recreational exercisers, it is a popular choice.
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues that focuses on muscles relevant to a 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.
The benefits of 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 sense of well-being
Decreased muscle tension
Decreased neurological excitability (nerves more relaxed)
Decreased muscle spasms
Purported benefits that are not supported by research include:
Increased blood flow
Increased elimination of exercise waste products (lactic acid)
Decreased chance of injury
Decreased recovery time between workouts
During research trials, some patients felt they were less fatigued and felt like they recovered faster after sports massage. Decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, and enhanced feelings of well-being were also noted. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) was reduced in most athletes.
There can be some side effects of sports massage which are described as tenderness or stiffness for 1 to 2 days after the massage. A skin reaction due to the massage oils is also possible. But for the most part, sports massage is safe.