It is important that as athletes we prepare ourselves for exercise physically and mentally and also allow ourselves to fully wind down after. Each individual is different and will respond to certain things in different ways. In an ideal world, an athlete should be using massage throughout their training, rather than for the first time before or after a competition or event.

Pre-event massage treatment is different to a general sports massage treatment. It will not be as deep and intense as a sports massage. A pre-event massage is normally performed within a time frame of 2 days- 30 minutes before an event. Deep treatment can take 1-2 days to recover from, hence why a pre-event massage is not as intense. Pre-event massage physically focuses on bringing blood, oxygen and nutrients to the area, decreasing potential cramps, warming up muscles and opening joints. It is thought to improve strength and functional performance as massage increases blood flow which provides more efficient metabolism for muscles and treats trigger points which are believed to cause muscle weakness and pain. Pre-event treatment will also have psychological benefits as it will help to prepare the mind to focus and enhance their mood and their perceived performance.

Although there is no clear data or evidence to demonstrate the positive effects of pre-performance massage on strength and functional performance, these interventions might be justifiable to achieve other outcomes, such as increasing range of motion, preventing injuries and fatigue, and enhancing athletes’ confidence and motivation, based on athletes’ specific demands and clinicians’ sound clinical reasoning. (Mine, Lei and Nakayama, 2018).

Post-event massage is classified as within a timeframe of immediately after the event to 1 day after. The main focus of the treatment is to reduce any cramping, relax the body and mind and deal with any injuries or complaints. More recently, there is growing evidence to support post-event massage therapy. Addressing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a 2018 meta-analysis, published in Frontiers in Physiology, reports that sports massage appears to be the “most effective method” for reducing DOMS.1 Going further, a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training reports that, “Massage was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30 per cent.”2 Another study by Farr et al investigated the effects of massage including effleurage and petrissage on muscle strength after 40 min of downhill walking on a treadmill in eight male participants. Isometric and isokinetic strength and single-leg vertical jump were measured. This study found that 30 min of massage after 40 min downhill walking was associated with a significant benefit in strength recovery.

In conclusion, there are all sorts of different opinions and research into whether pre or post-event massage is effective or beneficial. There is more and stronger evidence to suggest that post-event massage is more effective, therefore if one was chosen to be “best”, naturally, it would be post-event. However, you can also argue that an athlete who has had a previous injury or typically struggles with cramping or weakness during activity may find that a pre-event massage would suit them more. Often, some athletes will opt for both pre and post-event massage.

If you have any further questions regarding pre and post-event massage or would like to book a massage treatment please give us a call on 01702 342329.


  1. Dupuy O, Douzi W, Theurot D, Bosquet L, Dugué B. “An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis.” Front Physiol. 2018;9:403.
  2. Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. “Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, and recovery of muscle function.” J Athl Train. 2005;40(3):174-180.