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When and Why Should Runners Get a Deep Tissue Massage

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Massage is relaxing and rejuvenating for all of us, however, it’s a necessity for runners. While runners love a massage after the long hectic run, it also helps them recover from any muscle injuries or soreness. According to runners a deep tissue massage or a deep and intense rub does wonder to their body. A good refreshing massage helps reduce their muscle tension and boost their range of motion.

But, many runners hesitate to get a deep tissue massage since they are less informed on certain aspects of it like, which type of massage is suitable for runners, what is the best time to get a massage or the common mistakes they should know about. A good massage therapist would know the right timing, the intensity of the pressure, and the correct massage method that will help solve any misconceptions or answer the common queries.

Although there is not much scientific evidence to prove the benefits of massage using the sports massage techniques and why it makes the runners feel so good, practitioners believe that massage indeed help lower the stress levels, removes any toxins and lactic acid from the body, provides relief from sore muscles, and helps promote blood circulation.

So, let’s take a look at some of the answers that the runners have been looking for all these days.

Read on to know:

Massage for Runners

According to scientists, massage does not have the ability to remove toxins out of the muscles or into the bloodstream, since there is no physiological way that can occur. Neither does it flushes out any toxins or lactic acid, they say. Based on their theory "massage" is a process where the pressure is applied to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia.

This energy, they say relaxes the tissues and the clenched muscles which as a result is extremely beneficial for runners. This helps improve their performance by rejuvenating their muscles and limber joints.

Moreover, runners must also watch out for a few things while they get a massage:

  • Some runners reportedly feel sick after a massage session and this usually because of the release of too much of toxins. This may lead to muscle cramp and so, must be taken care of. They must make sure to drink lots of water post a massage session as this helps flush out the toxins released or any waste products that were released from the muscles. Drinking lots of water just clear them out.
  • It’s a misconception that massage should hurt else it’s not effective. At times the tighter muscles that trouble you quite often may cause a bit of uneasiness, but it should not be so hard that you are left with a bruise or an injury. It must not be such a discomforting situation that you are forced to jump off your table. If you rather find bruises consistently after the massage sessions, then it’s time you change the massage therapist. The therapist is definitely going wrong somewhere.
  • You must not feel languid after a massage session because a massage is intended to energize you. You must know that you will take time to recover with massage after workout. If you feel that your legs are a little lifeless the next day, relax, it’s just normal. Hence, make sure that you take a day off in between a deep tissue massage and an intense workout to ease your body.

When to do a Massage

This is one aspect that completely depends on you as taking a massage is based on your budget, your liking and whether you are training. If your budget allows you can go for a weekly or a monthly massage to keep yourself off from any injuries by getting the massage done at the right spots before they become troublesome.

However, if you the budget is restricted for a regular massage, you can rather opt for one or two sessions per training segment during an intense workout session. Hardest training sessions often tend to invite injuries which can be cured by a good massage.

Experts suggest that runners should take a massage after workout either on the same evening after an intense workout session, or go for it the next morning. If your therapist is going for a deep tissue massage using techniques like A.R.T., you may experience sore muscles as an after effect or may feel lethargic for some days post the massage. Your body will allow more time for you to recover and get back to normal if you schedule your massage closer to your last intense training session.

However, if you are planning to get a massage for marathon well before your next race, you must time it at least 3 to 5 days before the race. It’s important to note here that the deeper the massage like the deep tissue massage, the longer your body will take to recover and reciprocate, similar to the running exercises.

Read - Knee pain and Running Injuries

Types of Massages for Runners

It’s pretty natural for the runners to be confused about which sports massage techniques to use and so, we have listed the five types of massages that are beneficial for runners.

Active Release Technique (A.R.T.)

This method uses a blend of massage movements with precise deep pressure. This helps ease the muscle attachment and decrease the build-up of scar tissues. A.R.T is best used during the treatment of an injury, especially where the body is unable to heal itself due to the formation of the scar tissues, such as plantar fasciitis, hamstring injuries, or shin splints.

massage before marathon
A.R.T Benefits (Source)

Swedish Massage

This is the most famous types of massage better known for relaxation and indulgence. However, this can also be beneficial for runners, more so before any big race event. Swedish Massage or Effleurage is best used before the big racing competitions or for muscle recovery after hard training sessions.

Getting this massage in the days before the race helps you get rejuvenated, feel energized, relax your body and muscles, build your self-confidence for a peak performance.

Trigger Point

This massage technique aims to reduce the pain in the muscle tissues and the muscle knots. Trigger point is best used when you want to treat injuries, for instance, calf strains, hamstring injuries, or IT band rigidness.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is the popular type of massage among runners, however, it should not be confused with “deep pressure”. In this massage, both the upper and the deep layers of muscles and fascia are targeted and are usually pretty harder due to the conscious work.

This is known to target specific areas and works on the entire muscle as opposed to the Trigger Point massage. It is best used for runners who experience tight spots and tissues that are hooked to each other especially the lower back deep tissue massage. Therefore, it is more preferred during intense workout sessions.

massage for runners
Types of Massage for runners(Source)

Deep Tissue Massage vs Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is more required for relaxation that helps improve the lymph and blood circulation. It also helps relieve runners from pain, boosts mood, improves the quality of sleep and induces sharper thinking ability.

Deep tissue massage, on the other hand, is best used when runners are suffering from chronic pain that is, muscular pain. This helps improve the runner’s range of motion and improves posture. If you are looking to boost your athletic performance, you must get a deep tissue massage during the off-season since it facilitates changes in the motion to which you should be acquainted to before the race.

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

While the benefits of massage for runners is yet not scientifically proven, massage still helps runners to recover and improve their peak performance to a large extent. Let’s see the benefits explained by the experts:

  • Massage helps remove the bonding of the muscles and the fascia from the area where these clings together and block the muscle movement. This helps the runners recover from any pain and improve their performance.
  • According to studies conducted by the Journal of Athletic Training and the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there is a significant role of massage in athletic recovery. The study discovered that getting a deep tissue massage after a workout lowered the vigour of the DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the condition when you feel as if your legs are too heavy to pull two days after a tough race day.
  • Based on some other research a massage helps boost the immunity and reduces inflammation.
  • According to experts one session of massage leads to an increase in the number of different types of white blood cells/lymphocytes that help boost the immune function. This also helps lower the cortisol levels at the same tie.
  • Researchers believe that massage indeed helps runners get over their exertion and fatigue.
  • Moreover, massage is also known to control chronic diseases. If it’s a systematic inflammation, it can lead to several harmful effects on the runner’s body, for instance, stroke or heart attack. It can also expose people to cancer at an early age.
  • As per a research published in Science Translational Medicine, massage helps reduce inflammation in the limbs and increases the number of genes that facilitate the muscles to build mitochondria. This helps increase the tolerance levels for training in runners, pushing them for harder training. This results in faster recovery and helping the runners to go for a hard session of training just after two days.
  • A study on rabbits showed 50% to 60% recovery in the functioning of the muscles after a massage.
deep tissue massage how often
Deep Tissue massage benefits (Source)

How to do a Deep Tissue Massage

Step 1

Lean against the tissue and not push into the rigid tissue. Using your body weight will help the tissues melt under the pressure.

Step 2

Make sure that the massage table used is of the right height as it helps use your body weight much effectively. Position your body in such a way that you lean towards the client forcing your body weight on him/her.

Step 3

Using your forearms is the best way to perform a good massage with those long strokes, massaging the neck, back, hips, and so on.

Step 4

During a massage, you should be patient and work layer by layer instead of rushing through. This will help relax the clients and they will not resist.

Step 5

Make sure that you massage through all areas of pain including the area where the pain and tension are originating from and not just the symptom of pain.

Step 6

Make sure that you place a tight muscle in a position that stretches it and the massage applied on this area will automatically boost. This is all without working harder.

As per the research and the studies conducted, by now we know how beneficial can be a massage before a run or after a hard workout. All you need to understand is the difference between a deep tissue massage and other massage types so that you can get the one based on your requirement. Make sure that you connect with a specialist therapist who knows the right techniques and helps you heal and relax each time you go through it.

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