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The Science Behind Sports Massage: Enhancing Performance and Recovery

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Sports massage is a specialized form of massage therapy that caters to athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It is a targeted therapeutic technique designed to assist individuals at various stages of their training, from pre-workout to post-workout recovery. But how does it work, and what are the benefits? Let's delve into the science behind sports massage and its impact on performance and recovery.

Understanding Sports Massage:

Sports massage is not just for athletes. It can be beneficial for anyone who exercises regularly to prevent injuries, increase flexibility, and aid in healing after a sports-related injury. Unlike a typical relaxing massage, sports massage can be vigorous and intense, stretching tight muscles, activating inactive muscles, and improving the overall condition of soft tissue. The primary goal of deep tissue sports massage is to alleviate stress and tension in the body's soft tissues caused by physical activity, which may help increase endurance, improve athletic performance, decrease the likelihood of injuries, and speed up recovery after an injury.

The Science Behind Sports Massage:

A systematic review published on PubMed Central titled "The Effects of Massage Therapy on Sport and Exercise Performance" examined the effects of massage therapy on sports and exercise performance [1]. The review found that massages generally do not affect motor abilities, except for flexibility. However, some studies showed that muscle force and strength improved 48 hours after the massage was given.

Regarding neurophysiological parameters, massages did not change blood lactate clearance, muscle blood flow, muscle temperature, or activation. However, many studies indicated pain reduction and delayed onset muscle soreness, likely correlated with the reduction of the level of the creatine kinase enzyme and psychological mechanisms.

The Psychological Benefits of Sports Massage:

Massage therapy can also help improve mental clarity and focus by promoting relaxation and reducing stress, which can be especially beneficial for athletes preparing for competitions or events. The review found that massage treatment led to a decrease in depression, stress, anxiety, and the perception of fatigue and an increase in mood, relaxation, and the perception of recovery [1].


While the direct usage of massages just for gaining results in sport and exercise performance seems questionable, it is indirectly connected to performance as an important tool when an athlete should stay focused and relaxed during competition or training and recover after them [1].

If you're in Los Angeles and looking for a sports massage therapist, consider checking out Jesse Anoraj at Artisan Neuromuscular & Sports Therapy. As a local sports massage therapist in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, Jesse specializes in helping athletes and active individuals improve their physical performance, prevent injuries, and aid recovery.


[1]Dakić, M., Toskić, L., Ilić, V., Đurić, S., Dopsaj, M., & Simenko, J. (2023). The Effects of massage therapy on sport and exercise Performance: A Systematic review. Sports, 11(6), 110.

Archer, P. A. (2007). Therapeutic massage in Athletics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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