Massage Therapy for Athletes

HCA image for massage therapy Massage has become an big part of training for many athletes. Two benefits are more flexibility and reduced pain. And, after a hard day's workout, massage can also help you relax. Here are some methods that are used:

  • Effleurage —vigorous muscle stroking
  • Petrissage —kneading and rolling of the muscle
  • Tapotement —rapid striking of the muscle
  • Compression —pushing down on the muscles with the open palm of the hand
  • Trigger point therapy —finger pressure to irritable spots called trigger points to ease pain and tension

Part of Overall Training

Massage is best when it is part of an athlete's total training program, which includes a healthful diet, hydration, stretching, and well-designed workouts. Getting a massage once and a while or after an event like a marathon does not have much benefit. Light exercise like walking or jogging are best to help speed recovery after an event.

Do Not Touch

A massage may not be right if a person has:

Recent injury —Wait until swelling has gone down and bad bruises have healed before getting a massage.

Bloodflow problems —People with phlebitis or other bloodflow problems have fragile veins that can be damaged by massage.

Skin problems —People with open wounds or skin problems that spread easily should wait until they are fully healed before getting a massage.

Bone injury —Athletes with bone or joint trauma should not have massage therapy.

Other conditions —Athletes with infectious diseases and other problems may need a gentler form of massage or may not be able to tolerate treatment at all. They should check with their doctors first.

Deciding to Get Massage Therapy

From soothing tired muscles to calming an overworked mind, massage can be a useful addition to any athlete's training.

Here are some things to think about:

  • The therapist will need to know about your medical history and exercise routines.
  • You will need to undress to a level you feel comfortable with and lie down on a padded table with a sheet over your body. The therapist will undrape only the part of your body being massaged.
  • Do not worry if you do not leave your first session feeling fully loose and pain free. It may take many visits before you feel the benefits.
  • The cost of a massage depends on where you live, the experience level of the therapist, and the type of massage. Do your research.
  • Some insurance plans will cover the cost of a massage that is prescribed by your doctor and done by a licensed therapist.
  • You may need to try several therapists to find the best one for you.

You now have the knowledge to book an appointment and make massage therapy a part of your overall training plan.


American Massage Therapy Association
National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health


Massage Therapy


The benefits of massage therapy. Freemont College website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.
Contraindications of massage. Sports Injury Clinic website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.
Massage. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
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Accessed June 30, 2021.
Massage therapy: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/30/2021

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