Can deep tissue massage POSITIVELY AFFECT performance?

March 4th, 2019 by Phil Brown


I received the following text from a deep tissue massage client on the second day following their treatment session:

“You sir are a miracle worker. Felt a bit tight on my run, but took 8 minutes off my 10k time today!”

It is always really, really encouraging to hear feedback like this. Eight minutes is a SERIOUS amount of time to reduce your existing 10k time by and GREAT word of mouth for a massage therapist. This made me think…’s not the first time that deep tissue or sports massage has been identified as a very positive factor in sports performance, but the reasons why remain somewhat woolly……there has not been any scientifically proven evidence that getting a sports or deep tissue massage guarantees improved athletic recovery and performance, yet there are many athletes who include regular massage treatment in their schedule.

So, if deep tissue massage does positively affect performance, what are the ways that it might do this?

1. Massage can relax and lengthen overused and tight muscles

Training involves overuse. It is the overuse – but not too much – of muscles that stimulates the process of getting stronger that occurs in training.  Too much work and the result will be injury, but enough hard work and muscles adapt by getting HENCH. However, this process means that muscles ALSO get tired and sore and somewhat tight!  Any training programme worth its  salt will factor in enough rest and recuperation so that your muscles get time to not only recover but get a little bit stronger as a result of the level of “overuse” they were put through in training.
Many of us will be familiar with the sore feeling following intense training. It might hurt a bit but this type of soreness can be a good sign – a sign that your muscles were stressed enough to respond and get stronger.
The soreness wears off as the muscles are given time to rest and relax. Deep tissue massage seems to help this process of recovery by relaxing and lengthening the muscles with the deep, slow work of massage! Ask someone how their trained and tired muscles feel following a decent deep tissue session and it’s likely they may use words like “lighter” and “freer”…….


2. Massage may stimulate blood flow to the areas being treated

Blood! It’s the stuff of NUTRIENTS and LIFE!!! Deep tissue massage is a stimulating process and the mixture of “good” pain and pressure on the areas being treated may encourage increased local blood flow to the area and that rosy glow the person being treated can experience may be the result of that. This process may speed up the recovery needed for effective engagement in the next training session.


3. Dramatic improvements in performance may be due to long-held tension being released

It is my view that many of us engaged in regular training are significantly tighter than we think. Regular stretching is skimped on and the stress of training means that we go into each training session with  pre-existing levels of muscle and connective tissue tightness that simply don’t  go away. Indeed, without regular and targeted stretching or mobility sessions, range of motion in joints can be lost and never found!
Such limitations IMPEDE athletic performance without us even knowing it. This is why the feeling following targeted deep tissue treatment can be so pleasant and profound – we never knew we were bound up until we got freed up!

Dramatic improvements in performance following deep tissue massage work, may be due to the joints – acted upon by the previously tight muscles – being freed up to move with more range and effectiveness.


4. Massage feels GREAT!!!

Deep tissue massage certainly can “reconnect” an athlete with their body. Treatment for example through the thighs and hips makes the athlete more aware of these muscles and this part of their body and may enhance the “brain-body” connection that allows for better, more efficient performance in training and competition.

Regular, hard training without the “TLC” of a sports masseur or therapist may also have the opposite effect – tighter and tighter muscles that feel dull or don’t feel much at all!

Bottom line? None of the above has yet been scientifically proven, but get yourself treated regularly  and FEEL the difference – in your body and your mind and in your chosen sport! A bit of TLC for your hard working body goes a LONG way. Regular, deep and thorough massage from an experienced and empathetic therapist goes EVEN FURTHER!



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