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Sports massage

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Sports massage can be done before, during or after exercise.
  • It can help prevent injury and help you recover from physical activity.
  • What is involved in your sport massage depends on the training you are doing, and any problems you are dealing with.
  • If you want to use sports massage to help with an injury or problem, talk to your doctor first.

What is sports massage?

Sports massage is a type of massage designed to help athletes before, during and after training.

Sports massage can help you to:

  • increase flexibility
  • prevent injuries
  • improve performance
  • increase endurance
  • help with healing after a sports injury

Sports massage can be tailored to different sports and sporting injuries.

The aim of sports massage is to:

  • relax your muscles
  • aid circulation (blood flow)
  • release stress that can build up in the soft tissues of your body during exercise

What does a sports massage involve?

A sports massage is often not a relaxing type of massage. If you have a sport massage, the techniques used during your massage will depend on:

  • the training you are doing
  • your injury or condition

Sports massage often involves kneading and grasping of muscles and other soft tissues. Your sports massage therapist or physiotherapist may use techniques such as:

  • effleurage — strokes with the palm of the hand
  • petrissage — lifts soft tissues
  • tapotement — hitting the muscle gently

Depending on the reason for your sport massage, it can be:

  • short and focussed on a problem area
  • focussed on your whole body

You might feel some discomfort during a sports massage. Always tell your massage therapist if you are in any pain or if you are uncomfortable. They can respond to how your body is feeling.

What are the health benefits of sports massage?

One of the main benefits of sports massage is that it can prevent sore muscles after exercise. This is known as 'delayed onset muscle soreness'.

It can also help you to:

  • exercise more efficiently
  • prevent some common ailments that go with exercise
  • recover from a sports injury

Sports massage may also:

  • affect your heart rate and blood pressure
  • increase your circulation and lymph flow

Sports massage is often safe after an injury. But there are some injuries for which it's not suitable. If you are using sports massage for any health condition or injury, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist first.

Resources and support

healthdirect's massage therapy guide contains information on:

  • the different types of massage available
  • how to choose a massage therapist

healthdirect's service finder is a free service that can find your nearest health services. You can use it to search for health services such as:

You can find more information on qualified massage therapists through Massage & Myotherapy Australia (Australian Association of Massage Therapists) on 03 9602 7300.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

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