Do cyclists really need massages?

Regular massage is part and parcel of life for pro riders, but what does rubbing muscles really achieve – and is it worth the bother? Physio Graham Theobald investigates

(Tim De Waele/Getty)

(Image credit: Corbis via Getty Images)

Most of us enjoy a good rub-down – but, as the headline above implies, there may be a difference between wanting a massage and actually needing one. Most cyclists have a massage from time to time, either to ease aches or just as maintenance. We’re told that shaving our legs enhances the experience, and there are all kinds of massage-related products claiming to further boost the benefits. But are there really any proven gains from massage, or does it simply feel good? As a physiotherapist treating countless cyclists every year, I have a personal interest in finding out.

There is no clear scientific consensus as to whether massage has a significant effect beyond alleviating stress and anxiety. There’s no question, it helps us relax. But most of us go for a massage in the hope of reaping physiological effects that will benefit our cycling performance and recovery. If there is no proven benefit from hands-on massage, then perhaps self-therapy – such as foam-rolling – makes more economic sense. 

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