Running and massage therapy

In the Phoenix area we have quite of few marathons, 1/2 marathons, 5k’s, 10k’s, triathlons and such. With these events there are a lot of people wanting to get a massage before or after their event, which can be great but for some it can also do more harm than good.

After discussing with several runners and massage therapists about people getting a massage before or after an event I decided to write this article as it seems there is some confusion and at times lack of understanding of when to get a massage and what type of massage to get is best, before and after an event. After doing some additional research I came to the following conclusions, feel free to leave comments below with any feedback.

If you want to utilize massage to help you run better, faster or longer it is best to add it into your training regimen as opposed to only getting one before or after a marathon. This way your body can get used to receiving a massage and you will be less likely to have any adverse effects.

Bodies respond differently to massage work, especially deep tissue, and it can sometimes have a very adverse effect such as making your sick or very sore.  If you do not get regular massages a shorter (20 to 30 minutes) and lighter massage before or after the event may be much better and can also help with increasing circulation which will in turn help with eliminating lactic acid.

In general it seems that it is best to have a lighter more flushing massage (Swedish or lymphatic type massage) immediately before and/or after an event, rather than a deep tissue. A deep tissue massage can bruise the muscles, cause micro-tears and/or induce swelling, all of which can impede your running and increase your risk of injury. You may not notice any of this until it is too late, so better to be safe rather than sorry. If bruising, micro-tears and/or swelling does occur it can cause your body to go into a healing mode which in turn will take away energy that you need for running. Also, light stretching can be helpful, but anything too intense or vigorous as it can cause micro-tears and induce swelling or irritation which can in turn lead to injury.

The best time get a deep tissue massage before a marathon is a week or more, and the best time after a marathon is two days or more after (once the soreness is gone). If it is a few hours after the event you may be able to handle a slightly deeper massage but should still not receive a deep tissue massage. And of course, keep up with your fluid intake (water and electrolytes) after any massage, as this will not only help flush toxins out but may help with cramping as well.

Other advice to that may be helpful:

  • Try not to over train especially right before a marathon, this may help reduce your risk of injury and help your muscles store up the energy they need.
  • Take a cool shower immediately after the event to help minimize small tears in the muscles and to help with reduce swelling. If a cold shower is not tolerable, trying using ice packs on your muscles. It is possible that a hot shower can contribute to the pain and increase swelling.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes up
  • Listen to your body

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