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Serious athletes and sports enthusiasts place demands on their bodies that need extra attention to maintain optimal health and performance. Even without muscular imbalances and proper bio-mechanics, the strenuous activity that’s required for many sports stresses muscle tissue. Manual therapy such as deep tissue sports massage can help alleviate post-event muscle pain, improve overall performance, and increase circulation.

mountain bike raceBicycling magazine recently published an article discussing a new research study (not cited) that suggests a post-event massage benefits overall circulation in addition to providing pain relief and decreased muscle soreness.

In addition to decreased pain and soreness, the research results also showed that massage helped increase overall circulation for up to 72 hours. Those that did not receive massage following intense workout experienced decreased circulation for more than 48 hours.

Many athletes that contact me for sports massage are already aware of the benefits, but the most common question I get regarding sports massage is “When?”. “Is it better to get a massage before or after an event? And how much time should I allow between my massage and the event?” The answer(s) depend on a number of things including your overall health, the type of activity, and intensity of the event.

Licensed massage therapist Janine Verstraeten, who has worked with the Specialized-lululemon and US national bicycling teams recommends the following timetable for cyclists, which provides a good template for most sports:

  • Pre-Event: Get a deep tissue massage 3-5 days before a big event to break up adhesions and provide fluid muscle movement. Then consider an easy ride 1-2 days before the heavy ride, followed by a light self-massage to boost blood flow and flush out waste.
  • Post-Event: Since your muscles will be sore following a demanding ride, go for a lighter massage within 2 days. Then after the initial soreness has subsided, get a deep tissue massage about 3-5 days afterward to break up adhesions before they become tight and painful.
  • Maintenance: If you ride on a weekly basis, try getting a deep sports massage at least once a month to keep muscles and joints moving freely. For those in training, at least every other week is preferred.

Ultimately, your muscles and tissues need time to heal after strenuous activity. This includes an endurance ride or a deep tissue sports massage. Try to give yourself at least a day or two between an intense workout and deep bodywork. Light to moderate activity can aid the healing process more than complete rest too, so try to include some kind of movement and activity the day after. As always, contact your primary care physician if you’re experiencing extreme or persistent pain.