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How Can Massage Help Runners?

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Running rehab specialist Matt Phillips explains the advantages of sports activities therapeutic massage for runners.

Some runners swear by it, others say it’s a waste of cash. The reality that the majority elite runners have common therapeutic massage suggests there have to be one thing in it, however how helpful a software is it for leisure runners? Is there any proof it reduces damage or will increase efficiency? Let’s have a look…

What Does Massage Do?

The mostly proposed advantages of therapeutic massage are it helps flushes away lactic acid, improves circulation, breaks down muscle/fascia adhesions. It might subsequently come as a shock to listen to that none of those are supported by analysis. In reality, software of just a little primary science means that such claims are both unlikely or just not true.

What? So all that point & cash I’ve invested has been for nothing? No, hear me out – I’m an enormous fan of therapeutic massage: there isn’t a doubt in my thoughts that it may well assist runners, simply not in the best way you assume, and doubtless not as a lot as you’ll have been result in consider.

Flushing Myths

Modern analysis has made it fairly clear that muscle soreness just isn’t brought on by lactic acid construct up. Lactic acid (or extra precisely ‘lactate’) truly clears from the blood stream the second you cease operating, so the concept therapeutic massage helps ‘flush it out’ is mindless.

How about flushing out toxins? Well, in all honesty, regardless of loads of therapists utilizing that as cause, nobody can truly say what these ‘toxins’ truly are. It’s an concept that sounds good however is definitely not scientifically based mostly.

Linked with these flushing myths is the concept therapeutic massage ‘improves circulation’. Despite this being a quite common declare, any improve in circulation would truly be minimal. Circulation will increase whenever you increase metabolic demand; in different phrases, giving a therapeutic massage will improve circulation excess of receiving one.

Breaking Down Knots

Ok, stick with me. Remember, I’m a fan of therapeutic massage and can get to the advantages quickly. We simply should clear up the misconceptions first. Many runners put up with (and even anticipate) appreciable discomfort throughout a sports activities therapeutic massage within the perception that the therapist is making use of the required drive to interrupt down ‘knots’ or ‘scar tissue’. This concept is, as soon as once more, a fantasy; surgeons use scalpels to chop by means of scar tissue, so the assumption that strain from a thumb or elbow might break it down is clearly misplaced.

If your muscle tissues really feel extra relaxed or lengthened after a sports activities therapeutic massage, implausible. But it’s not as a result of the therapist has managed to pressure bodily modifications in your physique’s tissues. It’s truly fairly scary to assume that a human being might do this with their naked arms.     

How Does Massage Help Then?

So, what does therapeutic massage do then? Studies present that therapeutic massage after train can scale back the depth of publish train soreness. So what is occurring? Some of you might already be asking ‘why does it matter how it works, as long as it does?’ The reply to that query is as follows: if we all know how one thing works, we will tweak it to make it work even higher. If you (and your therapist) really consider that the deep tissue therapeutic massage is ‘breaking down scar tissue’, you’ll each be pleased to place up with appreciable ache, with shouts of “this hurts like hell but I know it’s necessary” and “no pain, no gain!”

Though there’s a lot about ache that we don’t but perceive, what we do know is that permitting a therapist to pummel you’ll be able to truly result in a delay in restoration. Pain is an output from a nervous system that’s primarily making an attempt to guard you from actual or perceived injury. Trying to struggle ache doesn’t make sense as a result of all you’ll finally do is wind the nervous system up much more and trigger it to output much more ache. This is why stress, poor nutrition, lack of food, and so on. can all improve ache. They all trigger the nervous system to really feel extra weak. And that is the place we now reveal the almost definitely mechanism behind therapeutic massage… it relaxes the nervous system.

Relaxing the Nervous System

Studies present that therapeutic massage can scale back each depression & nervousness. It relaxes the nervous system, eradicating menace and giving it much less cause to output ache or prohibit motion. This is why after a suitably deep therapeutic massage we frequently really feel much less ache and may transfer extra freely. The impact won’t essentially final ceaselessly (we have now all seen how the preliminary ache typically returns after a number of days) however it may be a approach to velocity up restoration, permitting us to coach extra intensely with out growing the danger of overload and damage. We all take pleasure in a agency therapeutic massage however placing up with too excessive a strain runs the danger of doing the other.


Massage may help runners, simply in all probability not for the explanations historically given. By enjoyable the nervous system (versus winding it up), therapeutic massage can help restoration, permitting you to coach vigorously with out growing danger of damage. The talent of the therapeutic massage therapist subsequently lies in making use of an appropriate quantity of strain on the proper time. Talk of ‘breaking down scar tissue’ or ‘realigning tissues’ is outdated and may result in runners placing up with pointless ache that may truly delay restoration.   

Matt Phillips is a Running Injury & Performance Specialist and host of the podcast Runchatlive. Website: www.runchatlive.com

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