What is Sports Massage & Why You Need It?


Athletes are no exception to the health benefits massages can bring. So much so, that a massage treatment can be tailored towards enhancing athletic ability. There are many different styles of massage, each with its own set of advantages for stress relief, pain relief, and general well-being.

Commonly aided by a percussion massager, physiotherapists rely on Sports Massage to keep their superstar clients in top form. But this treatment is far from reserved for the physically elite. Sports Massage could be the missing piece to your active lifestyle, and here’s why:

What is a Sports Massage?

Sports massage’s main focus lies in improving physical performance while preventing injuries.  To achieve that, it follows three key principles1: technique, intent, and timing. And understanding the interplay between these three principles is essential in making this a success.

Techniques used

Techniques used

Sports massage borrows elements from the likes of deep tissue and Swedish massage in putting together a specialized solution. You can expect a typical session to make use of the following techniques2:

  • Effleurage – smooth and gliding strokes
  • Petrissage – squeezing, compressions, and kneading
  • Friction – rubbing muscles against each other using circular motions
  • Tapotement – percussive strokes using the hands or a handheld massager
  • Vibration – gripping a muscle group and shaking to loosen

Any combination of these techniques may be used to serve a specific end goal. It’s also common to incorporate stretches into the massage.



Sports massage can target several aspects of your body’s functions. And in doing so, the therapist may only focus on selected parts of the body. These considerations would depend on the nature of your activity and your current needs for it.

  • Increasing blood flow
  • Stimulating the nerves
  • Warming up the muscles
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Building strength
  • Improving form/posture
  • Relieving muscle soreness and tension
  • Calming the nerves

Types of Sports Massage

Types of Sports Massage

Sports Massage can be classified depending on when it’s needed. The timing of the massage is what determines its technique and intent.

1. Pre-event –  This is done on the day of the game or workout itself, usually lasting only 10 to 15 minutes. Focusing on the specific muscles that you will be using, this is how it usually goes:

  • Increasing the blood flow using petrissage
  • Stimulating the superficial tissue using friction
  • Warming up the deeper muscles with gentle stretches and tapotement

2. Post-event – This is another quick session that can take place right after an event. The sequence below will help you transition from a state of exertion to that of recovery:

  • Calming the nervous system with deep effleurage
  • Relieving muscle soreness/tension and promoting blood flow using petrissage
  • Restoring range of motion with stretching exercises

3. Training and maintenance – a Sports massage can also help your body keep going and avoid injuries. It does so by promoting blood and nutrient flow to your muscles while improving overall mobility.

4. Rehabilitation – in the unfortunate instance of injury, Sports massage can focus on recovery and getting you back in form. It works by reducing swelling, breaking up your scar tissue, and maintaining alignment in your injured muscles as they heal.

Who Benefits From It?

Sports massage is designed for the more active lifestyles, but that’s where the distinction ends. Because the need to be at your own peak chooses no fitness level. So if any of these sound like you, you might want to consider a Sports Massage.

Fitness newcomers

Fitness newcomers

It can be argued that eager beginners would need as much care as the top pros. Not being used to a certain new sport or workout can keep you from getting the most out of it. This unfamiliarity also poses a significant injury risk.

Sports Massage helps you develop a more active lifestyle that is more rewarding and risk-free. It can help speed up your progress in your new passion, too.

Sport hobbyists and fitness buffs

Sport hobbyists and fitness buffs

Gym rats, casual runners, cycling enthusiasts, and amateur league players are among those who fall under this category. These lifestyles resemble a professional athlete’s even more closely – and so do their needs.

Professional athletes

Professional athletes

Sports Massage was originally conceived with the professional athlete in mind. In many parts of the world, specialized training programs and certification 3 are available for this practice. A good sports massage therapist can easily become key to an athlete’s victory.

Why Need a Sports Massage?

In truth, it takes as little as two questions to decide: Do you regularly push your body to the limit? And do you want to be better at it? Sports massage can have it covered for you in every step of the way.

To prepare your body for a workout or event

Increasing your blood flow brings the much-needed oxygen and nutrients to your muscles during physical exertion. It also releases muscle tension 4 while increasing your body temperature. This improves your muscles’ mobility and efficiency 5.

Sports massage can also provide a psychological boost. Reducing pain leads to less stress hormones, better mental capacity, and improved focus. Moreover, all the soft tissue manipulation gives you the kinetic awareness necessary for better coordination.

To minimize injury risks

This can either be a prevention or a cure. Conditioning your muscles before an event protects them from major tears. And a regular maintenance massage gets rid of any constant strains that might wear you down.

In the actual event of an injury, it goes beyond speeding up recovery. It can also help recondition the healing muscles and strengthen them against getting injured again.

To recover better from muscle soreness and fatigue

There are two types of muscle soreness 6 that result from intense physical activity: Acute Muscle Soreness and Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS). While they’re usually nothing serious, the pain can be debilitating enough for days at a time.

Sports Massage can help cut this recovery time for you 7. By reducing muscle tension and increasing blood flow, it relaxes your muscles and promotes nutrient flow.

In conclusion

Sports Massage is a specialized form of treatment that fuses different approaches to achieve peak athletic performance. And not only does it apply to various levels of active lifestyles, it also covers a whole range of needs.

That said, it takes an expert’s comprehensive assessment to make this a true game-changer for you. Consult your doctor or massage therapist for the best treatment options for you.

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