Massage Therapy for Swimmers







Sports massage is just what you need after a workout of competition to make you feel better, to ease muscle pain, and to relax. Right? Not so fast. Don’t crawl on the table just yet without understanding your needs and the right sports massage techniques for the job.  Check out the dos and don’ts of getting a sports massage after swimming.

Why Get a Sports Massage After Swimming?

Many athletes get massages after swimming, and they incorporate sports massage into their therapy and training programs as well. Massage for swimmers offers athletes many benefits before and after a workout or competition:

  • Promotes mental and physical relaxation
  • Improves range of motion and mobility
  • Improves circulation and reduces swelling
  • Aids in pain management
  • Improves flexibility
  • Aids in recovery and reduced/delayed soreness
  • Assists in preventing injuries from overuse
  • Warms the muscles
  • Reduces stress and mental fatigue
  • Active sports massage stretches muscles and connective tissues

Not All Sports Massages Are Equal

It is important to note that not all massage modalities are treated equally. The type of massage you need before a competition or workout is not the same as the one you need after.

  • Relaxing massages, such as clinical massage and Swedish massage, do exactly what the name suggests: promotes relaxation. This is good on days that don’t involve training or competing. This massage includes effleurage and strokes to promote relaxation. This is the music on, lotion flowing, draped-body type of sports massage. This is not an event massage.
  • Pre-swim sports massage or preparation massage: This type of sports massage is brisk and active. It is done right before an event. The massage is designed to prepare the swimmer’s body for the event. The massage therapist focuses on the muscles and parts of the body that will be used for the event. The therapist employs rocking, shaking, stretching, range-of-motion techniques, compression, and tapotement techniques to prepare the athlete.
  • Post-swim sports massage: this type of massage is performed after an event, at least 10 to 15 minutes after. Once the swimmer has cooled down and rehydrated, the massage can begin. The massage is not a full-body massage. It consists of calming techniques, compression, therapeutic stretching, broadening strokes, and various effleurage techniques.

Dos and Don’ts of Sports Massage

Swimmers and trainers who decide to incorporate sports massage into recovery need to know the ins and outs of the technique. Understand the dos and don’ts of massage before including it into your training plan.


  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Practice self-myofascial release techniques.
  3. Use the right modalities and techniques for the preparation and recovery goals.
  4. Express pain, discomfort, and concerns with the therapist.
  5. Get recommendations from trusted professionals about therapists.
  6. Express your training and recovery needs with the therapist.
  7. Make sure the therapist has experience working with swimmers.
  8. Get relaxing sports to massage the week of the event.
  9. Practice self-care techniques.
  10. Make sure the massage therapist understands the rules and regulations established about massage, as defined in the USA Swimming Safe Sport Handbook.
  11. Work only with a licensed professional. You can find a licensed and board-certified therapist.


  1. Receive a massage at an event in a private space. It must be out in the open.
  2. Receive a deep-tissue massage within 48 hours of competing. This can create muscle breakdown and soreness.
  3. Get on the table if you are feeling dizzy or dehydrated.
  4. Experiment with a new massage technique, plan, or therapist before or on the day of an event.
  5. Suffer through a painful massage. Getting a massage after swimming should promote relaxation and recovery; it should not hurt.

Replace recovery and rehabilitation techniques with a massage. Incorporate massage into your training.

Massage is a great way for swimmers to maintain, prepare, and to recover. Massage therapy plays a large role in training programs for swimmers of all levels. You can find therapists at high school swim meets triathlons and professional swimming competitions. During the 2012 London Olympics alone, more than 800 therapists cared for athletes. Massage has become a necessary part of training and recovery, and you can find a board-certified therapist to complement your therapy plan.

Massage is among the oldest of the healing arts. References to massage and its values go back to the beginnings of recorded history. Among the most widely recognized benefits of massage are:

•Improve your range of motion

•Release of stress

•Relieve your tired feet with Reflexology

• Release of emotional and physical tension

• Reduction or elimination of back pain

• Relief from sore musclesRelaxation

• Increased energy

•Change in your nervous system- from sympathetic to parasympathetic

•Great for post and pre-sports events

•Ease medication dependence.

•Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body’s natural defense system.

•Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.

•Improve the condition of the body’s largest organ—the skin.

•Lessen depression and anxiety.

•Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue, and stretch marks.

•Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.

•Reduce post-surgery adhesions and swelling.

•Reduce spasms and cramping.

•Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.

•Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller.

Relieve migraine pain.

•Blood pressure control •Infant growth

•Boosting immunity

•Cancer treatment


• Decrease in chronic pain and pain management

• Improved sleep • Greater mobility and flexibility

• Improved body and mind awareness

•Reduced fatigue Profound Effects In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects. Research shows that with massage:

  • Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain.
  • Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak airflow.
  • Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety.
  • High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
  • Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping.
  • Preterm infants have improved weight gain.

Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat post-surgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process. Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits Getting a massage can do you a world of good. And getting massage frequently can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.

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PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT
PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT

*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.