Sports Medicine

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 183–204 | Cite as

Massage and Performance Recovery: A Meta-Analytical Review

  • Wigand PoppendieckEmail author
  • Melissa Wegmann
  • Alexander Ferrauti
  • Michael Kellmann
  • Mark Pfeiffer
  • Tim Meyer
Review Article



Post-exercise massage is one of the most frequently applied interventions to enhance recovery of athletes. However, evidence to support the efficacy of massage for performance recovery is scarce. Moreover, it has not yet been concluded under which conditions massage is effective.


The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of the available literature on massage for performance recovery.


We conducted a structured literature search and located 22 randomized controlled trials. These were analysed with respect to performance effects and various characteristics of the study design (type and duration of massage, type of exercise and performance test, duration of recovery period, training status of subjects).


Of the 22 studies, 5 used techniques of automated massage (e.g. vibration), while the other 17 used classic manual massage. A tendency was found for shorter massage (5–12 min) to have larger effects (+6.6 %, g = 0.34) than massage lasting more than 12 min (+1.0 %, g = 0.06). The effects were larger for short-term recovery of up to 10 min (+7.9 %, g = 0.45) than for recovery periods of more than 20 min (+2.4 %, g = 0.08). Although after high-intensity mixed exercise, massage yielded medium positive effects (+14.4 %, g = 0.61), the effects after strength exercise (+3.9 %, g = 0.18) and endurance exercise (+1.3 %, g = 0.12) were smaller. Moreover, a tendency was found for untrained subjects to benefit more from massage (+6.5 %, g = 0.23) than trained athletes (+2.3 %, g = 0.17).


The effects of massage on performance recovery are rather small and partly unclear, but can be relevant under appropriate circumstances (short-term recovery after intensive mixed training). However, it remains questionable if the limited effects justify the widespread use of massage as a recovery intervention in competitive athletes.


Endurance Exercise Performance Recovery Untrained Subject Massage Intervention Delay Onset Muscle Soreness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was funded by a grant from the German Federal Institute for Sports Sciences (Bundesinstitut für Sportwissenschaft [BISp]; reference no. IIA1-081901/12-16).

Conflicts of interest

Wigand Poppendieck, Melissa Wegmann, Alexander Ferrauti, Michael Kellmann, Mark Pfeiffer and Tim Meyer declare that they have no conflicts of interest that are relevant to the content of this review.

Supplementary material

40279_2015_420_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wigand Poppendieck
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Melissa Wegmann
    • 1
  • Alexander Ferrauti
    • 3
  • Michael Kellmann
    • 4
    • 5
  • Mark Pfeiffer
    • 6
  • Tim Meyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Sports and Preventive MedicineSaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany
  2. 2.Department Medical Engineering and NeuroprostheticsFraunhofer Institute for Biomedical EngineeringSt. IngbertGermany
  3. 3.Unit of Training and Exercise ScienceRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  4. 4.Unit of Sport PsychologyRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  5. 5.Schools of Human Movement Studies and PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  6. 6.Institute of Sports ScienceJohannes Gutenberg UniversityMainzGermany

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