First off, how can a Sports Massage benefit a runner?
Sports Massage helps to:
Improve blood circulation
Rebalance the body's musculoskeletal system
Loosen tight muscles and reduce stress on joints
Recover from injuries
What does it actually do?
Sports massage is for managing, manipulating and rehabilitating soft tissues throughout the body. Soft tissues are our muscles, tendons and ligaments. Each bone has muscles and fascia to surround it and each joint has muscle, tendons and ligaments to support it. When your muscles are strong, they stabilise motion, produce more power and reduce impact stress.
What is so special about Sports Massage as opposed to other types of massage?
It focuses on the appropriate muscles depending on the type of exercise
The techniques might feel a little uncomfortable at times but are very effectively focused to repair injured muscles and promote the healing process
Often the massage will be focused on either the upper or lower body
Some injuries are caused by overuse of a particular muscle. Overuse injuries often result in sore, painful and inflamed muscles. Massage will reduce the likelihood of the muscle becoming overused in the first place. It will reduce the initial inflammation that leads to an overuse injury.
There are many forms of massage but a Sports Massage practitioner will focus on your needs as an athlete. If you receive sports massage regularly and applied skilfully it is a powerful aid to injury prevention. Sports massage releases muscle tension and restore muscle balance to the musculo-skeletal system. Muscular tension leads to stress on ligaments and tendons as well as to the muscle itself. A massage practitioner can detect variations in the soft tissues and correct muscle imbalances before they become serious enough to cause discomfort or impede your performance. They will use three main techniques:
Effleurage mainly stroking movements to warm up the muscles and accustom the client to touch.
Petrissage kneading into deeper tissues.
Friction for deep muscle work and breaking up scar tissue or locked muscle fibres.
What can you expect from a Sports Massage?
During the first visit you will be asked about your past medical history, the nature of the injury if you have one, and questions relating to your training and competition. If you are going for a massage when injured you will need to demonstrate actions you are or are not able to perform.
Will it hurt?
There are stories that a good massage is a painful massage. This is not true. A good masseur will always start off easily so you can get used to the feeling of a massage. The masseur may eventually need to work deeply into the tissues and this may cause pain. However, deep massage should only cause good and manageable pain only. If at any point you feel uncomfortable the practitioner will happily alter the treatment.
How does Sports Massage help to prevent injury?
A good Massage Therapist will be able to prevent injury in a number of different ways. She or he can identify if you are training correctly and using the correct shoes. If you are running on the camber of a road for example and you are doing it too often, this will show itself to a masseur by the imbalance and tilt of your pelvis and associated muscles. The masseur will then be able to release the areas of tension that would otherwise develop into an injury and give you training advice.
How often should runners actively training for events get a sports massage?
The more you train the more often a massage is needed. It is recommended twice a week during peak training. That might not be possible for all of us of course and you can still see the benefits from massage by getting one per month. It is ideal to get sports massage pre-event (a more gentle one) and post-event for races like half marathons for example or any longer or ultras races.
Trigger Point Massage for Runners
A technique that is flooding the running grapevine at the moment is trigger point massage. Trigger points are hypersensitive spots in the skeletal muscle. It feels like a tight area in the muscle tissue. It is called a trigger point because it triggers a response not only affecting where the trigger point is located, but also causing a referred release to elsewhere in the body. For example, a trigger point in the back may reduce pain in the neck which has itself been causing headaches. Releasing these constricted areas in the muscles can help naturally manage pain and stress from minor and chronic injuries. Releasing each muscle group means the muscles can work together to give you a fast and smooth running gait.