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Does Massage Really Speed Up Recovery on Rest Days? The TRUTH of Post-Workout Massage

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Woman stretching on floor after workout

Many athletes or gym-goers love to get a massage on their rest days. Often, they ask us if massage helps to speed up the recovery on rest days. Although the answer is surprisingly no, it’s not quite that black and white, either. For such a long-time massage was thought to help speed up recovery on rest days, but scientific studies have actually proven that theory wrong.

The Post Workout Healing Process

The body’s healing process after a workout will be different for everyone. It also varies based on the intensity and length of a workout. For instance, if you just ran a marathon, your healing process will be much longer than if you had only ran a few miles on the treadmill at the gym.

When you work out, you’re creating tears in the muscle fibers so that they grow back bigger and stronger. If you did a light workout, your body will generally take about twenty-four hours to heal. After a moderate or intense workout, however, your body will take two to three days. If you’re sore for longer than three days then the workout was too much.

Post-Recovery Massage

Although it was a long-held belief that massage after physical activity shortened the recovery time, that’s not actually the case. Massage only increases blood flow to the integumentary system, the skin, not the muscular system. Some researchers think that this may even hinder recovery by taking blood away from the muscles, however many do not believe that to be true and it has not been medically documented. Furthermore, there are potential errors with the study. The massages in this study were given immediately after exercise. There can be elevated blood flow levels in the musculature for 30 minutes or greater after exercise, so there wouldn’t be any substantial findings after a massage in this situation.

That being said, massage does produce a positive effect on our mental states. Massage therapy releases endorphins, which also enhance our body and feelings of well-being. Having an increase in endorphins allows for a decrease in perceived pain after an athletic event or tough gym session. That may be why many still feel that it’s wildly beneficial to receive massage therapy after a grueling workout, athletic event, or bike ride.

Massage does also help to lengthen the muscles and fascial tissue, which can help you stay in proper alignment. This also decreases the chances of tearing or straining other muscles due to compensation patterns. Furthermore, it can help flush out fluid build up from any strains or tears by stimulating the lymphatic system.

Even though the answer isn’t probably what you had hoped for, there is still evidence that having a massage on your rest days is healthy and beneficial for your entire body and mental wellbeing. From boosting your immune system response, to increasing dopamine and serotonin production, massage therapy is beneficial any day of the week. Feel free to leave question in the comments section below, and call our office today to schedule your massage!


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