DIY Sports Recovery

Massage is a useful aid to training/sport recovery and is increasingly being seen as relevant to recreational athletes as well as elite professionals. However, the traditional barriers to massage (cost, time, access to a professional) combined with the advent of doing everything at home during the Covid-19 pandemic have increased the popularity of ‘self-massage’. For the massage professional this might not seem like a great idea, but if this is what my clients want to do I have to respect their choice. This article will help me to educate my patients to perform self-massage safely, even if they can’t do it as effectively as a trained professional.

Content covered in this article includes:

  • Recovery Massage
  • Foam Rolling
  • Percussive Massage
  • Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation

Where to download the article PDF

You can find the downloadable article PDF in the Media Contents box on the right hand side of this page (if you’re reading this article on a laptop or desktop) or click here.


Key Points

DIY Sports Recovery – Key Points [Image] Credit: Co-Kinetic 2022
  1. Maximising performance is not simply about training, but a fine balance between loading and recovery.
  2. Following physiological and psychological stresses of training, recovery aims to restore homeostasis to the same level as before or preferably a superior one.
  3. Sports massage is beneficial in reducing or preventing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which will in turn aid in recovery.
  4. Although active recovery, compression garments, and cryotherapy are all beneficial, massage has been found to be the most powerful technique for recovering from DOMS and fatigue.
  5. Massage can be costly, time-consuming, inconvenient and be limited by accessibility to a professional therapist; combined with the advent of home therapy during Covid-19, ‘self-massage’ has become increasingly popular.
  6. Foam rolling is used by both elite and recreational athletes, it is affordable, easy to use, time-saving (‘can do it anytime, anywhere’) and beneficial for recovery.
  7. Foam rolling can reduce pain and accelerate recovery of sprint and strength performance, in addition to clearing lactate and counteracting DOMS.
  8. Percussive massage using a hand-held device can increase range of motion (ROM) and facilitate muscle recovery while reducing the symptoms of DOMS.
  9. Instrument-assisted soft tissue massage (IASTM) can increase ROM and reduce pain but has not been tested on outcomes associated with sports recovery.
  10. Education, technique and care are needed should an individual choose to ‘self-massage,’ as these modalities can produce side effects and serious consequences.
  11. Heterogeneity across studies using these modalities combined with small sample sizes and varied treatment strategies make it challenging to form a consensus on optimal recovery protocols.


  1. What advice or concerns would you give an individual who wants to self-manage their recovery using either foam rolling, percussive massage devices or IASTM?
  2. Do you feel there is a risk of individuals ‘over-doing’ self-massage treatment, potentially doing more harm than good?
  3. Do you use any of these devices in your practice to aid in manual therapy treatments?
  4. Do you feel moving away from a ‘hands-on’ approach to treatment may hinder the psychological or physiological component of recovery?

Quotations/Important Points

“Manual therapy techniques, including massage, foam rolling and the use of massage devices, are all beneficial in aiding an athlete’s recovery”

“Recreational athletes are also realising that massage is beneficial and that it is not just for elite professionals”

“Traditional barriers to massage (cost, time, access to a professional) combined with the advent of home therapy during Covid-19, have increased the popularity of ‘self-massage’ ”