After exercising, I begin to feel pain within my muscles which I've concluded as DOMS, so I wondered if I can massage the pain away. At some point I realised that the muscles just have to recover. But my question, does massaging help relieve the pain from DOMS in any way at all.

4 Answers 4


You hit on an important distinction between pain and recovery.

Massage may very well make you feel less pain, but that does not mean it will improve your recovery.

Many immediately jump to "At least it gets rid of the pain. I'm going to do it."

There's a chance that backfires. Many associate pain with recovery. Less muscle soreness? "I'm more recovered." In fact, many (erroneously) equate how sore they are from a workout with how effective the workout was.

If you get or give yourself a massage, which makes you feel better, then you may assume you're more recovered than you are, where you inadvertently do too much after the massage. Like push too hard in your next session, or you don't take enough time off before the next session.

I like this one paper which hits on this:

  • Using Recovery Modalities between Training Sessions in Elite Athletes: Does it Help?

Personally, with my personal training clients, I don't mind if they get a massage, but whenever a client says something like "Last workout was tough. I needed a good massage after it," I'm likely to be a little more cautious the following session.

  • Does DOMS increase your risk of an injury in subsequent sessions? I've never altered my training due to DOMS and the exercise usually makes it go away anyways. Nov 21, 2018 at 19:08
  • Link to the paper here: wingate.org.il/_Uploads/17barnett-usingrecovery-2006.pdf Nov 22, 2018 at 7:35
  • @TheLoneMilkMan depends on how you approach the next session. If you're very sore, but modify your training -for most, the soreness will more or less force them into this (in my view, one of the biological reasons for the soreness)- then in most cases, most people, are going to be fine. In fact, as you said, you might even feel better getting some blood flowing. Going for a PR though? Not the best idea. Easiest way to think about this is the biggest predictor of nearly all injuries is fatigue (& past injury). Less recovered you are the next session, the bigger potential risk there is.
    – b-reddy
    Nov 30, 2018 at 13:17

No, massaging a muscle has no effect the pain felt from damaged tissue or what is known as soreness. But it can momentarily increase pain tolerance, same with stretching. Many people think foam rolling or stretching does indeed decrease soreness but it only makes the muscle a little numb for a brief moment, thus giving that illusion of being beneficial.


Massaging and foam rolling are not identical, but are close enough that foam rolling is often labelled a form of "self-massage".

Foam rolling has clinically proven benefits on DOMS-related pain and connective tissue related recovery.

Massage appears to have tested benefits on DOMS pain, but not on improving muscle function recovery (these results seem to vary a bit between different results, but being conservative it would be best to assume no benefit to recovery).

So to answer your question, yes, massage helps DOMS-related pain, but you should be cautious going back to work out, as your muscle is unlikely to have fully recovered.


Foam rolling has clinically proven benefits on DOMS-related pain and connective tissue related recovery.

The study used a subjective pain scale, so placebo was obviously a major factor in perceived pain, using subjective pain scales completely defeats the credibility of the study. Also the linked study literally states

FR did not help in treating EIMD at the muscular level

So biologically speaking Foam rolling did nothing to increase muscle recovery, it only reduced pain due placebo effect.

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