Effects of massage on athletes post-event


Massage is one of the techniques used in the treatment of injuries. To begin with, it is described as a manipulation of body tissues with pressure and stocking to enhance health and well-being. Normally, post-event massage is conducted between 30 minutes to 72 hours after an activity or competition. A number of scholars have examined the physiological and psychological effects of massage on an athlete after a post-event. Priscilla & Santha 2014 reported that massage therapy had been perceived to offer various physical benefits to muscles such as relief of tension and stiffness, advanced rate of healing, a decrease in muscle pain, and overall flexibility. Therefore, this study will focus on both the physical and mental effects of massage on athlete post events and examine how beneficial this method is in the recovery and prevention of injuries.

Physiological effects of post-event massage therapy

Massage used in the recovery of muscle pain and fatigue

Priscilla & Santha, 2014 have described the physiological effects caused by massage. The effects relate to the extent at which an athlete can effectively compete at their desired level. According to Priscilla and Santha, a post-event massage can aid in treating tight muscle. It is a common occurrence for muscles becoming tight after activity because of overtraining. The tightness can be due to microscopic tears of the muscle fibers incurred in the course of physical activity. The increase of tight muscles can result in injuries like muscle strains and tears. Message assists in treating muscles post-event to avoid tightness from taking place. In addition, massage assists in increasing the circulation of energy to get rid of metabolic wastes. Reducing the amount of waste left in the body after an exercise aid to lower the possibilities of tightness.

Green & O’Brien, 2016 describes a post-event massage as a therapy that is applied to an athlete after an event or training session to assist in the recovery of soft tissue. The authors determined that over the years, post-event massage has been used to fight the effects of a bout of high degree tasks, and efficient time for post-event massage to be used is between three to six hours post events. Findlay, 2010 suggested that massage could be used as a recovery up to three days post activity. The primary focus of the massage is not only to post-event massage, but also to sports massage as a whole is to improve the speed of circulation. Thus, an increase in circulation will enhance the amount of nutrients that are delivered to muscles and organs while helping to eliminate all the waste materials that accumulate after intense work.

Nunes et al., 2016 understand that pain and fatigue are usual after a strenuous event. After a comprehensive study, they determined that massage is important in the recovery of pain and perceived fatigue. Thus, they support the fact that message is an important therapy in the treatment of injuries, particularly in the recovery of pain and fatigue after a vigorous activity. However, the authors identified a need for further research. They determined that further studies are required to confirm the acute effect of massage in athletes after a competition and to assess the impact of the massage process applied at the end of competition on the recovery of long-term athletes. It is stated that the massage did not significantly reduce the amount of pressure on the quadriceps needed to elicit pain. Therefore, even as the massage is used in pain recovery after an event, it is important to conduct further research to determine the acute effects.

Massage used to alleviate DOMS

Mueller, 2018 reviewed the effects of massage on DOM and physical performance among female collegiate athletes. The author determined that because of the mechanical pressures of the message, local blood flow increased, which tampered with the margination of neutrophils and lowered further damage linked with the inflammatory phase of the healing process. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the sensation of the tender, aching muscles normally felt when moving, which happens a day or so after an exercise. Any reduction in the ability to develop force and heightened sensitivity to pain are attributes of DOMS. The soreness linked with DOMS is among the initial sensed within 24 hours after an exercise bout consisting of eccentric muscle contraction.

The examination of muscle cells after intense activity shows the structural damage to the cells and discharge of cellular aspects resulting in edema and a localized inflammatory response (Mueller 2018). More particularly, the mechanical stress experienced during exercise on the muscle fibers contributes to the disruption of structural proteins in muscle fibers and connectivity tissue in series. In addition, the physical damage to the muscle fibers contributes to an active-phase inflammatory reaction that consists of infiltration to skeleton muscles through neutrophils as well as macrophages. Therefore, the ultrastructural examination of the muscles shows the extent of the damage.

Lewis, Ruby, and Bush-Joseph 2012 believe that massage therapy is effective in relieving DOMS since it is perceived to increase blood and lymph flow and reduce edema and lower pain. An increased rate of tissue fluid movement using massage could lower the concentration of harmful chemicals that sensitive nerve endings and lower the soreness sensation. A different approach through which massage could reduce DOMS is by speeding the delivery of nutrients to damaged tissues hence accelerating the repair process and promote strength recovery. Recent researches examining the effects of massage on muscle soreness have shown conflicting information. For instance, Nelson 2013 introduced the need to involve vibration techniques prior to massage therapy. Thus, Nelson suggests that massage therapy can only work effectively when combined with other techniques such as vibration. Important decrease in soreness beliefs on DOMS after a message has been recorded while other researches have deduced that message is not beneficial in lowering DOMS.

According to Guo et al., 2017, as a physiotherapeutic process, massage strategy is commonly used to eliminate symptoms of DOMS as well as to help the athlete recover after the task as they prepare for the next activities. The significant effect of massage therapy is said to increase skin and muscle temperature and blood flow. In addition, other effects of massage therapy are relief of muscle pressure and rigidness, a decrease of muscle soreness, and the rise of joint range of motion.  From the authors, reviews indicate that merits from a massage on signs of DOMS after strenuous activity. Thus, massage is an important therapy for athletes’ training. However, the authors feel that proper understanding of the effectiveness of massage inception on DOMS, as well as muscle performance, is needed, especially on large sample size.

Psychological/mental effects of massage on post-event

 Few studies have focused on identifying whether massage can aid offset any adverse psychological effects in terms of fatigue and perceived recovery between performances among athletes. However, studies to date do show positive effects of massage on psychological aspects of performance levels and recovery rates. Need 2019, found evidence that whereas massage is not promoting physiological regeneration, it was vital in regenerating the psychological factors of recovery. Intense training or competition is linked with mental fatigue and an overall worsening of the state of mind. Post-event massage can create a sense of calm and well-being, a decrease in stress levels, and a change in attitude as well as perceived relaxation and recovery. Therefore, even though massage might not influence the physiological aspects of recovery, many merits could happen from changing the psychological state of the athlete and their perceptions of how they will perform.  

The finding that perceptions of recovery indicated a positive change after massage offers some scientific support for the application of massage as a recovery intervention. Need, 2019, believe that massage could cause an analgesic effect on muscle sensory receptors or result in a psychological relaxation response lowering the perception of DOMS, hence enabling the athlete to believe they are feeling well then they might be physiological. Since the psyche could have the ability to override the physiological response channeled to the brain, the psychological effects of massage might change the amount of energy an athlete exerts when going to a follow-up bout tasks.

On the contrary, Al Frisany 2018 determined that the absence of vigor, as well as a tendency on confusion after a sports massage, might show a subjective perception of a relaxation state induced using massage therapy. In case a relaxation happens, an individual can forget about the stress and allow the tense muscle to relax. It allows muscles to relax hence bringing a better sense of well-being. Therefore, such as responses to massage might not be real for a pre-performance treatment, but important in post-performance because it creates a platform for enhanced recovery among the athletes. 

Effects of massage on performance

Strenuous events usually reduce successive performance levels unless the body heals the damage. Changes in various biomarkers have been researched to find out how strenuous tasks change those biomarkers and which might be attenuated through a massage. Crowther 2017 posits that tasks that cause damage to the muscles and post-event muscle regeneration, commonly induced through reduced control on calcium, could be a factor in prolonged post-event loss of muscle force production. Fatigue is related to muscle fiber alteration, which shows more effort is needed to keep a specific level of mechanical performance. The relaxation that is created through massage can lower the rate of fatigue through induction.  

Studies on the use of massage as a recovery to promote performance are conflicting. Gasibat and Suwehli 2017 determined daily manual massage after a strenuous task has no significant effect on the rate of recovery on voluntary muscle generation to a tune of 96 hours after a post-event. Thus, a series of bouts of intense activity with massage-conducted in between massage was determined to result in a slight rise in performance levels. Other researchers determined that about 46% of changes in successive task performance after a 30-minute massage recovery time when compared with passive recovery status. There was an increase in the performance level because massage is important in its justification as a therapy for speeding recovery. However, it is still unknown how massage affects performance in the long-term, especially when the next bout is not in the provided range following the initial bout.

Massage for recovery and prevention of injuries

Massage is perceived to reduce soreness hence break-up adhesions in the muscles. In the case of DOMS, the muscles usually shorten with adhered tissue that reduces a range of movement. Massage aid elongates the muscles and promotes compliance, enabling body movements.  Kay and Blazevich 2012 determined that weeks of massage aided in increasing the low back range of movement with outcomes surfacing in the first week of treatment. In a different study, it was found that massage helps lower the pain that usually comes after strenuous activity.


In regards to the above literature review, massage plays an important role in the recovery and performance of athletes after a post-event. The mental benefits of massage have been determined through perceived relaxation, performance, and recovery. On the other hand, physically, massage is important in improving the flow of blood to damaged tissues and organs for a quick recovery. It was determined that increased blood flow helps reduce swelling. Moreover, the perceived intensity of DOMS is shown to reduce through a massage process. Therefore, massage is an important therapy that can be used to the performance of an athlete after a post-event.

Reference list

Al Frisany, A., 2018. Effectiveness of cross taping as a therapy for delayed muscle soreness. American Journal of Sports Science, 6(2), pp.65-73.

Crowther, F., Sealey, R., Crowe, M., Edwards, A., and Halson, S., 2017. Team sport athletes’ perceptions and use of recovery strategies: a mixed-methods survey study. BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, 9(1), p.6.

Gasibat, Q. and Suwehli, W., 2017. Determining the Benefits of Massage Mechanisms: A Review of Literature. Rehabilitation Sciences, 2(3), pp.58-67.

Green, D., & O’Brien, T. 2016. Restoration of normal physiology without the use of excessive fluids. BJA: British Journal of Anaesthesia, 117(2), 264-266.

Guo, J., Li, L., Gong, Y., Zhu, R., Xu, J., Zou, J., and Chen, X., 2017. Massage alleviates delayed onset muscle soreness after strenuous exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 8, p.747.

Kay, A.D., and Blazevich, A.J., 2012. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, 44(1), pp.154-164.

Mueller, C. 2018. The effects of massage therapy on delayed onset muscle soreness.

Nunes, G.S., Bender, P.U., de Menezes, F.S., Yamashitafuji, I., Vargas, V.Z. And Wageck, B., 2016. Massage therapy decreases pain and perceived fatigue after long-distance Ironman triathlon: a randomized trial. Journal of physiotherapy, 62(2), pp.83-87.

Need, H.M.D.Y., 2019. How to Get the Most Out of Exercise.

Priscilla, K., & Santha, N. J. 2014. Massage therapy-complementary and alternative therapeutic approach. Asian Journal of Nursing Education and Research, 4(4), 514.

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