How massage can change your mental and physical performance

Sydney Elite therapist, Lauren Ramia enlightens us on how receiving a massage can help us improve our health and performance. 

Massage is a tool for psychological and physiological recovery. Sports physios and athletes have known for years the benefits of massage for both mental well-being and physical performance. Whether you have seen the routines on tv or from your own experience being among athletes, as they prepare themselves for competition and efficient recovery, you will understand and, potentially, be amazed by the psychological and physiological practices that, these super humans, put in place.

Massage plays a huge role in athlete’s preparation/recovery. Every athlete is different and, as the type of sport varies, the preparation and recovery will also change. Each individual athlete uses massage either in a psychological or physiological way. From my experience, it is perceived as a vital element in their preparation and or recovery. Sports massage has been suggested as a means to help prepare an athlete for competition, as a tool to enhance athletic performance, as a treatment approach to help the athlete recover after exercise or competition, and as a manual therapy intervention for sports-related musculoskeletal injuries.[1]

I have had the opportunity to catch up with well-known APA Titled Sports Physiotherapist, and NSW Institute of Sports Physiotherapy Coordinator, Rob Mullard, to ask him about his opinions on massage and the way a massage can assist a Physiotherapist in their treatment plan and or program to getting/keeping athletes at optimal performance. With Rob’s extensive experience, his treatment approach is based on identifying functional/bio-mechanical deficits and correcting these issues to prevent recurrent injury and improve function/performance. In his treatments he implements a number of treatment methods including massage, muscle energy techniques, dry needling, strengthening and functional retraining. 

I asked Rob why he sometimes uses a hands on method as a tool in his consults, he stated that massage therapy is beneficial for the client to improve their joint mobility and reduce scar tissue. He believes that a hands-on treatment from a remedial or sports massage therapist is a great adjunct to a physiotherapist, allowing greater time for soft tissue therapy and repair. Rob says that seeing a massage therapists is great for overall recovery and helps with the performance/rehab plan.

“If the client can recover more efficiently, the plan will progress well and the client will become stronger quicker, performing better”. Rob also states that “overall recovery has a significant effect on overall performance”. He believes that physios and massage therapists work together, interchangeably, to produce overall better results for the client.

I wanted to chat with a few professional athletes to get their insight into how a massage treatment affects them. As we know, everybody is different and the effects of massage differ from each individual, this determines when, what type and how often an athlete chooses to receive a massage treatment.

I was given the chance to speak with two Rio Olympians, Hannah Buckling and Keesja Gofers of the Australian Women’s Water Polo Team, also known as the ‘Aussie Stingers’.

Hannah Buckling stated “For me, massage is not just about physical recovery but also mental recovery. We are always trying to balance so much with training, study and work, that having some designated time for myself gives me the mental recovery I need!”

Speaking with Keesja Gofers, she explained that massage for her initially makes her quite sleepy and leaves her feeling rested. Days after, her muscles feel released and body is more energised, for this reason, she uses massage more for relaxation, self care, overall body soreness and fatigue. “When on tour, we often have scheduled massages once every two weeks. The schedule of games will determine whether I have a massage or not”.

The importance in scheduling treatments around training and recovery at the optimal time makes a big impact on Gofers’ recovery. Talking with both athletes, from the same sport, the benefits of massage are clear. What differs is the effect of the massage on the individual in different stages of their preparation and or recovery.

I have been lucky enough to work alongside the AFLW GWS Giants team for the past three seasons and now heading into my fourth. I started out as a Sports Trainer and have now expanded my skills and play a dual role as Trainer and Massage Therapist. Amongst the thrill, the tears, compassion, excitement and dedication of being a part of a professional sports team environment, I am given the opportunity to observe the changes of the body, the extent these athlete puts themselves through, how the intensity from pre-season to finals have effect on them and their performance, and what factors take part in this transformation.

For some athletes getting a massage assists in their day to day function and athletic performance. The body itself physically benefits from massage by improving tissue health, circulation, reduce swelling, reducing/remodelling scar tissue, improving mobility and decreasing pain. Depending on what works for the individual/athlete, as part of their preparation, recovery or rehabilitation, the physiological effects it can have are maintaining or restoring normal functioning, prevent and improve recovery and rehabilitation of sport and exercise related injury, improve performance in training and competition, and to maintain the athletes well being.[2]

As well as physical ability, strength and athleticism, an important part of the game is the athlete’s mental strength. Ensuring time is taken throughout the preparation and recovery period to connect with mindfulness can be just as vital as training and warm up itself. Massage treatments have a significant impact on an athlete’s psychological state and are often used as a great way to zone in, focus and mentally prepare for the competition ahead, in a relaxed yet enhancing environment.

Psychological benefits that you could expect to see from a sports massage includes a reduction in stress and anxiety, as experienced by Buckling, as well as a feeling of relaxation, which is embraced by Gofers. This relaxed state can encourage focus, something that’s needed before any big match or competition.[3]

In combination of the anecdotal evidence and research collected on the psychological and physiological changes massage can have on the body, I think we can all agree that there are significant benefits to the body and functionality. Whether you are an elite athlete or just suffer from general aches and pains from day to day living, get to know your body, listen to its needs and go get a massage.

Lauren Ramia



[1] The Role of Massage in Sports Performance and Rehabilitation: Current Evidence and Future Direction
[2] Sports Injuries and Massage -
[3] Professional Sports Massage -