Massage Therapy has long been known to have amazing benefits, most notably the ability to initiate the
relaxation response in our bodies. Recently it has become more popular among athletes. Most athletes
want to reduce muscle soreness and increase healing. Runners in particular are on the lookout for ways
to train more effectively, improve performance, prevent injury and recover quickly.
For the past 19 years massage therapy has been available at one of the most prestigious sporting events
in the world, the Boston Marathon. A team of over 175 therapists give up to 1,200 massages on race
day. They are considered part of the medical volunteer team and deal with foot issues, tight muscles,
spasms, and cramps. Most people train for the better part of the year to participate in the Boston
Marathon, and the massage therapists job is to play a roll in the success of the participants.
Runners who use massage therapy to help keep their muscles loose and flexible experience fewer
injuries. However, when injuries occur, massage can dramatically speed the healing process. Let’s talk
about some of the more common running related injuries:
Illiotibial Band Syndrome- The IT band is a fibrous band that spans from the hip too shin. ITB Syndrome
is caused when the band becomes inflames and tender
Shin Splints- Usually describe a set of symptoms. Can be due to problems with the muscle, bone or
attachment of the muscle to the bone.
Plantar Fascitis- A syndrome of heel/foot pain. A tight, inflamed fascia can cause pain when walking or
Strains & Sprains- Muscle/tendon strains and ligament sprains are common injuries experienced by
runners. Early detection and treatment can help speed recovery.
Most of these injuries can be attributed to overuse, inconsistent training, and lack of stretching
or improper stretching. Massage can aid in recovery by relieving muscle tension and soreness by
improving circulation. Increased amounts of oxygen and blood flow to injured tissue will bring nutrients
and remove waste products. Massage therapy increases and restores range of motion and flexibility.
The field of massage therapy is extremely varied and therapists can specialize in one or more types of
massage. Several modalities are particularly suited for athletes:
Swedish Massage – A full body massage that increases venous and lymph flow, promotes realization and
improves cell nutrition. The depth of pressure can be adjusted to meet the clients specific needs.
Neuromuscular Therapy – Applies pressure to specific points (Trigger Points) to relieve spasm and pain in
Thai Massage – Can help the athlete as it stretches and softens the muscle by passive stretching and
compression, and allowing each muscle group to be brought through its full range of motion.
Sports Massage – Not a particular form of massage itself, but rather an integration of techniques and
modalities tailored to suit the athlete’s needs.
And here’s the rub, no pun intended. The effects of massage are cumulative. Just as stretching your
hamstrings once before a race not as effective as regular, consistent stretching, one massage prior to a
race will not give you the same benefits as a regular, consistent program of massage therapy.
How often should you receive a massage? That can vary greatly. Working with a therapist you can
determine the type of modality and frequency to suit your specific needs. A qualified therapist will
take note of your training schedule, long runs and races. Scheduling what is best suited for your needs
including pre race and post race massage. A competitive athlete might see a therapist 1-2 times per
week where a person putting in less than 20 miles a week can do fine with 1-2 times per month.
Integrative therapeutic bodywork can work with all fitness levels, from beginners to professional.
Massage is a necessary component of every active person’s health and wellness plan.