Yes. We’ve heard this one before, from well-meaning friends and physicians. People who exercise regularly don’t really need massage therapy. Better known as, the¬†”Get off your a**!” myth. (Mmm hmm, that’s why this post features¬†a picture of a donkey.+)

First, before you get worried about the direction in which this post might be heading: Exercise is a must. Regular exercise helps keep your musculoskeletal system in shape and your mood sunny. Those are well-proven truths. Exercise doesn’t eliminate the need for massage therapy, however. In fact, many athletes are now seeking massage as a way to improve their performance as well as reduce injury pain.

Unfortunately, the effects of massage on athletes or ordinary folks has not been widely studied. Available studies are limited and small. The British Journal of Medicine reported in 2002 that massage therapy helped reduce leg pain in a very small group of athletes 48-hours post-massage.

Another study published in the Journal Science in 2012 took eleven men and asked them to exercise until they became exhausted. A portion of the men in the study received massage therapy and a portion did not. In group 2: The men who exercised their muscles to fatigue and received massage therapy afterward, researchers discovered that those men had a decreased inflammatory response. Why is that important? Scientists are discovering that too much inflammation may be the cause of many different types of disease. Cellular healing increased in the second group as well.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), massage therapy administered by a trained therapist working within the scope of his or her practice may*:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Help athletes monitor muscle tone
  • Promote relaxation
  • Increase range of motion
  • Improve soft tissue function
  • Support recovery from the transient immunosuppression state
  • Decrease muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise
  • Improve exercise performance
  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce breathing pattern disorders
  • Enhance athletic performance
  • Help prevent injuries when massage is received regularly

What’s the verdict in the ‘hood?

The truth is, several athletes¬†visit Bubbling Brook for treatment as well as many ordinary folks who have established good, healthy exercise routines. They walk, they cycle, they hike, they ride horses, practice¬†yoga or tai chi… they follow dogs on sleds during the winter. They work at their desks during the week, but they take care of themselves too. Time and time again (we know, it’s just anecdotal), they say that regular massage therapy improves the quality of their lives. It helps them relieve soreness and recover from over-use or injury faster.

So, whether you trust scientific evidence or look to your community for folk wisdom, it appears that massage can be helpful for weekend warriors as well as for those who have to sit at a desk all day. Hopefully future scientific research will soon tell us precisely how helpful.

Next time, we will look at myth #3: “Why do I need an MT when I already see a PT?”


+No donkeys were harmed in the writing of this post. This guy/gal came up to the van in which I was riding while I was on vacation. I simply snapped a photo and closed the door.

*Click here for AMTA references.