Sports Massage – Myths and Facts That Everyone Should Know

, Sunday, 9 September 2018

The overwhelming benefits of sports massage treatments are well-known and acknowledged by modern science and professional trainers. Nowadays, both professional and amateur athletes consider it an integral part of their sports lives. They believe it to be evenly crucial to their training and diet. Many even go further by claiming it can give them an edge over their competitors.

What’s the best part of a massage?

Sports massage can be very beneficiary to ordinary folks as well, not just athletes. You don’t even need to workout to enjoy the benefits from one. And yes, that is also backed by real-life science. But before we go into the wonders of sports massage, we need to demystify some common misconceptions and myths about it. The following section will debunk the most important ones.

Common myths and misconceptions about sports massage

Sports massage doesn’t work!

This is crazy: The fact that there are those wondering whether it works or not is ridiculous. But in the age of the internet, almost everything is questioned by someone. But, let’s put this question to rest with some hard-core facts:

  • The massage industry is worth £16 billion and keeps on growing.
  • Pro athletes pay top dollars to work with renowned sports massage experts.
  • Universities and companies invest hundreds of millions in sports medicine research.
  • Sports massage has been the primary interest for hundreds, if not thousands of studies and researched by some of the most renowned universities (Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc.). The effectiveness of sports massage is confirmed in each one of them.
  • Sports massage therapists are an integral part of almost every sports club in which the athletes are required to maintain good physical shape. The best and biggest even have entire massage departments.
  • Many athletes accredit great sports massage for much of their success, as well as for speedy injury recovery.

So, that’s one final big YES, sports massage works!

Sports massage hurts like hell
No, sports massage doesn’t hurt like hell. There is some moderate pressure, but that’s it. Nothing that the average person can’t handle. The pressure can sometimes be a bit harder, but if it hurts a lot than you need to tell your therapist.

Sports massage is a man’s thing
Again, no. Sports massage is equally beneficial for both men and women. There are no studies that prove the opposite, that sports massage is more helpful to males than for females.

Anyone can do it
Big no here as well. For one to work as a massage therapist needs to pass official training and get a license. The untrained and unlicensed therapist not only can be ineffective but can make things even worse. Especially, if you are there to speed up the recovery of a damaged muscle.

Sports massage is the same as deep muscle massage
They are not. In deep muscle massage, it is the deeper tissue within the body that is pressured. The muscles lay on top of the deeper tissue that is being manipulated. On the other hand, sports massage is about pressuring the actual muscle (the soft tissue). For an untrained eye, there is no telling whether a massage therapist does the one or the other one. But for a trained therapist there is a difference as big as night and day.

Sports massage and massage, in general, is a relatively new thing
Not quite as massage therapy is described in Chinese books dating from 2589 BC. Since then massage therapy has been used in ancient Rome, Babylon, Greece, India, and Assyria. Of course, there has been massive progress since then. But, by no account is a new thing. The old civilizations might not have the level of expertise that is now available, but they were no strangers to the basic mechanisms of massage therapy.

Sports massage is for young people only
This is another misconception that is not true. Massage can be beneficiary to men and women from any age, from just a few to a hundred years old. Young or old, a muscle can benefit from a remedial massage. However, those that are sixteen or younger need to have permission from a parent.

At the same time, massage therapists prepare special programs for veteran athletes. Under the right program and with the help of an experienced massage therapist you can optimize your muscular function and continue to be fit over the long term. Age is indeed just a number, and sports massage can help you discover how far your mind and body can go.

Is a replacement for a warm-up
Not true. In no situation, a pre-event sports massage is a replacement for a warm-up, nor it can be. No one knows when this myth started, or who started it. It is more like a rumor that doesn’t seem to stop. But, it is complimentary. A pre-event workout followed by a proper warm-up is doing your muscles a great favor. So by any means, do it every time possible.

Myths aside, here is what having a sports massage is all about.

Why do you need a sports massage?

Sports massage combines several massage techniques to manipulate particular muscle groups that are related to the activities you do. It includes a variety of movements and specially tailored techniques such as Swedish style massage, petrissage, tapotement, friction, percussion and trigger points, and so on.

The purpose is to help the athlete achieve great physical condition and maximum performance, quicker recovery, pain reduction, and significantly reducing the chances of an injury. And if that is not enough, studies are showing that sports massage also helps reduce stress.

How does sports massage help?

The list of benefits from sports massage is based on observation and experience, and it is a lengthy one. The most notable advantages are:

  • Improved flexibility
  • Elimination of lactic acid
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Lower chances of injury
  • Increased joint ROM (range of motions)
  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Muscle spasms are decreased
  • Lowered Recover time
  • Quality Sleeping

The only possible side effects are stiffness or tenderness for a day or two afterward.

Types of sports massages

There are four types of sports massage:

  1. One type is given before training or a sports event. The idea is to either stimulate a muscle or help a nervous athlete to calm down. This type of massage supplements the warm-up so that the athlete is ready to perform at the highest level.
  2. The other type is given after a sports event or training, within four hours. The idea is to relax the muscles. That way the athlete can avoid soreness and the recovery time is way shorter.
  3. This one is given between two training sessions. It is given in case of a smaller injury or an inflammation. That way they don’t escalate into a more severe injury.
  4. The rehabilitative sports massage helps athletes recover from injuries faster and with fewer complications. It helps the muscle to return its flexibility to normal, decrease inflammation, and break down scar tissues. It also minimizes the chances to get injured again.

Common injuries treated with muscular massage

Different sports can put a different strain on different muscles. In case you feel some problems, from joint stiffness to pain, it is for the best to check it out first so that minor issues get early treatment and avoid significant complications.

Very often, sports remedial massage is beneficial in dealing with those injuries before they escalate into a more significant problem. Some of the most common injuries treated with remedial massage are back/spine injuries, ankles sprains, feet injuries, knee injuries (meniscus tears, ligaments, cartilage, etc.), joint inflammations, wrist injuries, elbows, and so on.

Why do sports massage feel good on sore muscles?

Sports massage helps the muscle tissue to relax, which translates into fewer spasms and painful contractions. Plus, it also lowers nerve compression. The thing is when muscles are contracted; often they press the nerves that surround them. A relaxed muscle, which is achieved by massage, doesn’t compress the nerves around it. That’s why sore muscles feel much better after massage treatment.

How to make the most of a sports remidal massage?

For best results, you need to incorporate the massage massage into your training plan. Professional athletes are doing that, and there is no reason other people can’t do it. A physical therapist that knows your overall condition, how you train that is familiar with your whole lifestyle can help you incorporate it into your training plan. That doesn’t mean you need to do it as often as professional do it. But just enough so that you give the muscles the right amount of relief.

Another thing to consider is sticking to one massage therapist

That is you find one that has the right moves and you feel is genuinely helping your muscles. The massage therapists can be like your barber or your family physician. Forming some working relationship can be very beneficial to you. Someone that knows the injuries you are prone to, your lifestyle, your exercise regime, and your diet can give a much better message than someone that sees you for the first time, regardless of his qualities.

When to avoid?

Sports therapy is literary for everyone and can be beneficial to anyone regardless of gender or age. However, there are some conditions when it is not recommended:

  • When there is an open wound
  • Ruptures in muscles
  • Pursuits or tumors
  • Artificial blood vessels

Those that are affected by one or more of the conditions mentioned above need to avoid sports therapy or inform the massage therapist at the very least.

Google Reviews Best Sports Massage

Where to find a great sports massage treatments?

Searching for sports remedial massage is not an issue, finding a great sports remedial massage therapist is another matter. There are a lot of therapists and centers that promise great experience for affordable rates. However, not all can live up to their advertisements.

At the same time, there are ways to make sure you end up in one where you will have a fantastic experience without charging a small fortune. Here is how to select sports remedial massage treatments:

Great user reviews

Nothing speaks louder than a bunch of negative reviews, or positive to that matter. However, if there are mixed, always go for the ones in the middle, the three-star reviews. Usually, those are the most realistic ones that you can rely on.


The massage industry is quite competitive. If a message center has been around for five or more years, then it only means that they must be doing something well. That doesn’t exclude new ones, but it sure makes them a higher risk.

Experienced massage therapists

The expert sports massage centers make sure that their massage therapists are well paid and work in a pleasant environment. That usually translates into a great customer’s satisfaction which is what you are looking for.

They offer a variety of massages
The best massage centers provide a range of massages; not just remedial massage. You can quickly discover that through their website or if you call them and ask.

Recommendation from a friend or a colleague
Bit old school, but a piece of advice from someone you know is always helpful.

Final words

Whether you are searching for sports massage in the UK or elsewhere, it feels incredible to find a great one and reap the benefits that come with it. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional athlete, an amateur, fitness lover, or you don’t exercise at all. Sports massage is about doing your muscles a favor.

The results will be explicit and immediate, both physically and mentally. Once you try it, the chances are that you will go back again and again as you will experience the full benefits of having a sports massage.

Ben has been a practical pain management trainer and a celebrated massage therapist. He believes human well-being is deeply connected to the health of mind and body both, including deep tissues. He holds numerous certifications for best of breeds massage techniques helping him on a mission for healthy London and then rest of the world. He has been an active contributor in massage technique research and on Massaggi blog.