Running is a popular activity for fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes. Runners like to spend time running outdoor trails, tracks, and indoor treadmills. Unfortunately, runners can fall victim to common running injuries that can potentially lead to long-term damages. Fortunately, massage therapy can have many benefits to runners who experience injuries from their activities.
Why Should Injured Runners Have a Massage Regularly?
Massage therapy has become a big part of training programs for both new and seasons runners. Why? Massage techniques are a proven aid to recovery. They can be beneficial for protecting against injury or aid in the recovery process if you are dealing with a running injury.
Over time, you can experience muscle tension and scar tissue build-up from running activity that can restrict your movements and impair your range of motion. These issues can lead to abnormal running patterns that can cause injury. In addition, your running injuries can lead to overusing specific muscles, resulting in sore, painful, or inflamed muscles. Massage can help you reduce the initial inflammation and restore your muscle balance. There are many running injuries you can experience that massage therapy can help relieve.
What Common Running Injuries Can Massage Help Recover?
Massage therapy — especially on a regular schedule — can help aid recovery for many different running injuries. Some of the common injuries that massage can help with include iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Your iliotibial band (ITB) is a thick fibrous band of tissue that runs along with the hip muscles down the leg to the outside of your knee. The role of your ITB is to stabilize your leg during activities that require you to bend the knee with weight-bearing.
Repetitive movement, like running, can cause irritation to your ITB and can lead to ITB syndrome. The pain you experience during running activity outside of the thigh near the knee, especially with weight-bearing activities.
Your ITB is composed mainly of fascial tissue. Treatments involving myofascial techniques are very effective if you are feeling pain in the area. ITB syndrome can be a nuisance for many and should be treated immediately before it progresses to a more serious athletic injury like osteoarthritis.
Your achilles tendon is the thickest tendon in your body, and it runs from your calf muscle down to your heel. This tendon provides your body with the elastic energy needed to do activities like running.
The most common cause of tendonitis at the achilles is caused by overtraining without adequate rest periods. If you have an achilles injury, you will feel pain in the achilles tendon during or after your run. Running on hard surfaces and tight, unstretched calf muscles can be a contributing cause to your achilles tendinitis.
Your achilles tendon doesn’t receive much of your blood supply, so it is an injury that is slower to heal. If you engage in proper stretching and adequate rest, this can help prevent achilles tendinitis. However, if your pain becomes a chronic issue, massage therapy can help loosen your calf muscles and release any adhesions in the deeper muscles that may restrict your mobility.
Runner’s knee is also known as patellar-femoral syndrome. This runner’s injury occurs when your kneecap tracks improperly within your knee joint. This injury is usually caused by a muscle imbalance in your lower body and can be felt as pain under and around your kneecap. Runner’s knee can be caused by tightening your quadriceps muscles, weak and inactive glutes, and muscle imbalance in your quadriceps.
Usually, the runner’s knee pain is felt around your kneecap, and the actual dysfunction is typically around your lateral hip and thigh. Treatment for a runner’s knee typically involves re-balancing your muscles in the lower body. This treatment revolves around releasing your tight muscles at the thigh and reactivating the stability of your weak muscles with massage therapy techniques.
Your plantar facia is a board sheet of connective tissue on the soles of your feet that help support your arches. They are a continuation of your achilles tendon and connect the intrinsic muscles of your feet. Irritation or overloading during running activities can be a significant contributing factor to plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis can be treated conservatively or more aggressively, depending on the stage of your injury. Minor injuries can be treated with ice, stretching, and adequate rest. When your injury progress to a chronic issue, your plantar fasciitis becomes more challenging to treat. Over time, scar tissue and adhesions may form around the area of irritation, which requires massage therapy sessions to break up your scar tissue.
What are the Major Benefits of Massage for Running Injuries?
Massage therapy has long been a part of a runner’s training program. You’ve probably heard of many benefits of consistent massage for runners, but there are many massage benefits if you are a runner dealing with an injury. Massage can help you ease in recovery, handle muscle pain, stiffness, increase blood circulation, promote flexibility, and optimize relaxation.
Enhanced Recovery from Activity
Massage therapy techniques effectively work to improve your recovery process by increasing the blood and lymphatic flow. Massage encourages the removal of your post-training inflammation and metabolic waste while also improving the oxygen supply to your muscles—this action aids in your recovery time.
Reduced Muscle Pain, Stiffness, and Swelling
Massage therapy can be beneficial when you start a new training program, increase your workout intensity, or add more mileage to your runs. Often your running routine can result in muscle pain, stiffness, and swelling. This type of muscle pain is caused by the release of body-producing toxins like lactic acid into your tissue. Massage therapy helps improve circulation to damaged muscles to alleviate tight and shortened tissue in your muscles.
Increased Blood Circulation
Massage therapy techniques have the use benefit of increasing your circulation and blood flow. If you’re dealing with a running injury, the increase of blood circulation can expedite your healing process by triggering the immune system to promote a healthy response in the tissue. When your muscles are challenged during a run, your body releases toxins into the tissue. Massage therapy is one of the quickest ways to promote recovery because it helps you release these toxins from the tissue.
Increased Flexibility and Joint Range of Movement (ROM)
Massage can benefit your recovery process by increasing your flexibility and joint ROM by using therapeutic techniques to increase your muscle length. A massage after a running injury can help your muscles use their blood supply more efficiently because of the reduced muscle tension. Over time this can lead to an improvement in your performance. The increase of flexibility, which is lengthening your muscles, means that you are more likely to prevent a running injury in the future.
Massage therapy promotes relaxation, which has countless benefits. Relaxing your muscles also helps you relax your mind and reduce stress. This can help you re-energize and aid in recovery for your next big race or workout.
What Types of Massage is Best for Runners
Today, many types of massages are available, making it difficult to know which one is right for you as a runner. There are many types of massage therapy techniques that can be very beneficial for your running routine.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is one of the most common types of massages used to treat athletes and runners. Techniques used for deep tissue massage target both the superficial and deep layers of your muscles. Your massage therapists will use pressure and strokes that reach the deeper layers of your muscles to relieve tight spots.
Sports massage is commonly used through various stages of a runner’s training cycle. Sports massage utilizes soft tissue manipulation techniques that focus on your specific muscles used during a particular sport. If you are routinely stretching your physical limits through movement such as running, you will benefit significantly from a sports massage.
Cupping therapy can be used to help you relieve muscle tension and tightness as well as your pain, stiffness, or breathing problems. Cupping therapy involves creating a vacuum within glass cups placed on specific acupuncture points on your skin. This can be done by heating the air within the cup before placing it on your skin. If you have been diagnosed with a specific running injury, cupping therapy can be used to help your body promote a healing response and reduce recovery time.
Start Your Running Recovery Path with an Optimal Wellness Massage Therapy Session
If you are a runner, you’re pushing your body to the limit to improve your athletic abilities, and the recovery process is vital.
Learn more about the benefits of massage therapy to promote running injury recovery at our two Colorado locations, in Boulder and Longmont. At Optimal Wellness, we offer various wellness services to help you perform at your best and improve your quality of life. Learn more about our massage therapy techniques on our website or book your appointment with our skilled Colorado massage therapist to get on the road to optimal wellness.