Sports Massage for Anxiety and Stress

The physical effects and benefits of sports massage are well documented and have been a valuable tool for athletes and sports professionals for decades. But, is sports massage good for anxiety, stress, and performance anxiety?

3R Physiotherapy looks into sports massage as a tool for mental health amongst athletes. Keep reading to learn more.



Is Sports Massage Good For Anxiety and Stress?

A study from 2005 states that sports massage is thought to be particularly effective in non-physical aspects of sports, including tactics, strategy, focus, and motivation. The article suggests that the psychological effects of sports massage can be incredibly important for athletes in a non-physiological manner.


A 2019 study concludes that sports massage therapy is a useful tool for athletes suffering from anxiety, alongside other interventions such as self-talk, imagery, and mental rehearsal. They also state that further empirical studies should be conducted to prove a holistic approach to anxiety amongst athletes, and performance anxiety.


Do Sports Massages Help with Performance Anxiety?

An eBook from 2005 refers to coaches using sports massage techniques to reduce anxiety in athletes before competitions. It can also be used to generate focus, elicit a state of calm, and can help to reassure.


Although coaches cannot guarantee performance as a result of sports massage, the method helps to increase potential.


Can Sports Massages Improve Athletic Performance?

It is generally well accepted that sports massage doesn’t necessarily improve athletic ability, but allows athletes to operate at their optimum by addressing issues including discomfort, muscle tightness, and injury.


According to Understanding Sports Massage, 2005, there are 5 stages in which sports massage can help an athletic performance:


  1. Recovery - To enhance physical and mental recovery from strenuous activity, injury, or competition

  2. Remedial - To improve a debilitating condition

  3. Rehabilitation - To facilitate healing

  4. Maintenance - All of the above, plus encouraging optimal health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally

  5. Events - Helping athletes to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for events. This also applies during and after an event.


How Do Sports Massages Reduce Anxiety?

Consider The Whole Athlete Model (Understanding Sports Massage, 2005, p. 16) - athletes are not machines, and as such devote their whole lives to their sports, not just their body. The model suggests that any change to the system affects the person as a whole, including physical changes. Sports massage affects the tissues, circulation, the nervous system, and other parts of the body. As such, this physical change can affect the mental and emotional state of the athlete.


For example, DOMS, injury, and general pains can affect performance in a variety of physical ways in which massage could help, but it can also affect athletes mentally in terms of focus and motivation. Sports massage can help to shift this back to a more positive mental state by addressing physical conditions.


Similarly, general massage is known for having an effect on anxiety and stress by alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and stress, including pain, muscle tension, and lack of sleep.


The Physical Benefits of Sports Massage

As well as advantages to mental health, sports massage, more traditionally, offers a variety of physical benefits, including:

  • Stimulation of circulation of blood and lymph fluids

  • Reduction of swelling

  • Reduced muscle tension

  • Improved muscle flexibility

  • Facilitation of soft tissue healing

  • Helps to prevent further injury

  • Improves ongoing physical performance


Sports Massage in Leeds

At 3R Physiotherapy we offer a range of sports massage packages to suit your needs. Book a single session from £35, or book a package to save money. Visit our Sports Massage webpage to learn more about our sports massage service, or to view our packages.


Alternatively, you can book an appointment here.


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