Massage Therapy For Runners: Injury Prevention & Increased Performance

The Strains of Running Running is a very linear sport. Unlike other activities where the body moves through all planes of motion (twists, squats, spirals) the body is only propelled forward; arms moving up and down, hips in minimal flexion and extension. Because of this, the fascia (connective tissue supporting the body) begins to stiffen in these chronic patterns.  Hips become tight, the spine becomes stiff, and muscles supporting the entire body become tight.

 "Running also requires sustained, repetitive muscle contractions. The greater these contractions are, the greater the force generated is, and the more muscle fibers are required to shorten. These sustained, repetitive muscular contractions translate into speed, power, and distance allowing us to run further and faster. However, this can also translate to shortened, tight muscles, joint range of motion losses, and decreased circulation to compressed tissues." Paul, S. (2013, Dec 23)

When muscles are tight, and movement is restricted: the circulation is decreased to stressed tissues, joints dehydrate, some parts of the body stiffen, and others can become weak. These can put the body at risk of injury in decreased performance.

Due to the above strains on the body runners often experience:

  • Tight hips
  • Low back pain
  • Shin splints
  • Tightness and cramping in calves
  • Tension in neck and shoulders
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Hamstring strain/tightness/pain
Benefits of Massage:
  1. Increased Circulation Massage helps increase the circulation of blood and lymph, delivering fresh nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissue while also reducing inflammation and increase elimination of cellular waste.
  2. Reduced muscle pain and fatigue Muscle and connective tissue can adhere to one another and create tension and knots. Massage can smooth out the knots allowing muscles to move freely. Regular massage can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness from hard training.
  3. Increased mobility and flexibility Specific massage techniques aid in lengthening overly shortened (tight) muscles. These manual techniques ease overly tight muscles along the body to move with ease. Other techniques will move or stretch parts of the body aiding to lubricate joints and increase the range of motion.
  4. Relaxation – Soothing the nervous system – Stressing the body for extended periods of time stress the nervous system. The Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is constantly firing. The SNS increases heart rate and adrenalin production and decreases blood flow to the abdomen and organs sending blood to the muscles.
Massage treatments vary for each individual. It is important to asses your goals for your training with treatments. How far in advance do you start training? Do you train all year? What is your training schedule? When do you start amping up to your big runs? Do you suffer from recurring injures? Assess your training goals, your body’s response and also your budget.

While Training Most runners will start with massages once a month or every two weeks. As runners near race day massages might become more frequent combining deeper work on tight or knotted muscles and dynamic stretching to improve range of motion.

Race Day – Post-Race Massage Some marathons actually offer FREE massage to runners at the event after they have completed their run. Not all offer this but if they do TAKE ADVANTAGE! These are done onsite, fully clothed and are shorter in length. These massages are more gentle and are geared to calm down the nervous system, help deal with and prevent cramping and will speed up recovery.

Recovery It’s always a good idea to have one or two final sessions after the race. Especially if you have finished your long runs for the season. These massages help smooth out the kinks from all your hard work and set your body on the path to healing.

Jintina Sundarabhaya (RYT-200) is a Burlington native and a lifelong student of healing arts. Jintina is a Certified Massage Therapist and has been a professional therapeutic bodyworker since 2005. She has traveled to Asia studying various forms of Eastern bodywork. She has a local practice in Burlington specializing in therapeutic bodywork, Thai Massage, and Massage Cupping. Along with this profession, she has a deep desire to assist in improving the quality of life for others. Her yoga practice began, like many, with the attraction to the physical benefits -strength, flexibility, and balance. Initially, she began her 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Vermont to compliment her work as a bodyworker and expand her yoga practice. Once in the training, she discovered the world and lifestyle of yoga, which has truly changed her life. Always thirsty for knowledge and as a student for life Jintina continues to deepen her study in yoga. Since completing her 200-hour, she trained in Yin Yoga, practiced under amazing yogis from around the country and is currently in another 200-hour teacher training with Cilla at Sukha Yoga. She believes there is always something new to learn and is eager to share her knowledge and experience with her students.

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Paul, S. (2013, Dec 23). Benefits of Massage for Runners