4 Ways Massage Therapy Benefits Runners
By Trisha Haws, reprinted from: http://running.competitor.com/2015/02/injury-prevention/4-ways-massage-therapy-benefits-runners_122461
Whether you run for fun, competition or stress relief, here are four ways massage therapy can significantly improve your running potential:
When you have started a new training program, increased the intensity of your training or are simply just running more mileage, massage therapy can be extremely helpful. Often times, the increased workload results in muscle pain and fatigue. This pain is caused by the release of body-producing toxins such as lactic acid into the tissue. When left untreated, the tissue can become damaged over time. Where there is muscle damage, there is less circulation. Reduced circulation can lead to congestion, tightness and shortening of the tissue.
Massage increases circulation and blood flow. With this increased circulation, overall healing is expedited by triggering the immune system to promote a healing response in the tissue.
Following a run, the body needs to recover from the stresses places upon it. When muscles are challenged during a run, the body releases toxins into the tissue. Massage is one of the quickest ways to promote recovery because it helps release these toxins from the tissue. In conjunction with proper hydration, toxins are flushed from the system, thus helping lessen soreness and fatigue while helping freshen your legs for your next workout.
Increasing an athlete’s range of motion can help improve performance. When we can move properly, we can run more efficiently.
A good massage helps rebalance the musculoskeletal system. Runners frequently experience pain and tightness in the IT Band, Achilles tendon, knees and hamstrings. Many runners can pinpoint where they are experiencing pain. A good therapist will evaluate pre-exsiting conditions and postural errors that could be contributing to pain, as the source of pain is usually not where the pain is manifesting itself. For example, pain in the hamstring may be attributed to limited lumbar mobility. The hamstring could be over-stretched and compensating for shortening of the hip flexors. The body is like a weight and pulley system. When a muscle experiences fatigue from overuse, another muscle will kick in to try and bring balance back to the body. Often times, this secondary muscle is not meant to sustain that kind of responsibility. When left untreated, it undergoes strain and, much like a domino effect, other muscles become involved and affected. A good therapist will analyze all these factors and develop an appropriate treatment plan to help break a cycle of recurring injury.
Lastly, massage promotes relaxation, which has myriad benefits. Relaxing the muscles also helps relax the mind and reduces stress, which can help re-energize you following a big race or tough workout, or even when the craziness of life combined with the demands of training start to wear on you.
If regular massage therapy isn’t possible, self-treatment can be an effective supplement. Foam rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls and massage sticks can be used to provide regular, routine maintenance when you’re not able to be treated by a professional.
When targeting specific areas, pause and press into the sorest areas for about 10 seconds and then release. Focus on frequently stretching the hip flexors, glutes, quads and calves—all important muscle groups for healthy movement.