Massage therapy is included on the list of approved alternative therapies for professional runners and it is one of the least invasive approaches to healing after running injuries. There are various pros and cons expressed by various physicians who support different lines of treatment, but there is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that massage is a great alternative to other therapies.
It goes without saying that we are referring only to the type of massage practiced by chartered physios, preferably with experience in treating athletes. The specific aims of massage therapy are to improve blood flow and muscle flexibility, and prepare you for the moment when you can go back to the running track and start training.
Among a total of over 30 different massage therapies known to specialists, there are 4 specific types of therapy which are recommended for running injuries.
1. The Active Release Technique
This massage therapy combines hand movements with deep pressure on the muscles. Its aim is to reduce scar tissue from injury and is recommended in case of hamstring injury, plantar fasciitis and shin splints. The therapist will start by evaluating your condition through palpation. Thus, they will be able to note the risk of scar tissue build-up which may prevent you from returning to your regular running form.
The active release technique is not recommended without specific recommendation from a physio. It applies a lot of pressure on your muscles, which may be contrary to what you really need to heal.
2. The Swedish Massage
This technique, also known as the effleurage technique, is the most common type of massage, used both in therapy and as a relaxation technique. This type of massage therapy involves long and flowing strokes which apply various pressures on the muscles, but is not as energetic as the active release technique.
The primary benefit of the Swedish massage is that it improves the blood flow in the injured area and relaxes the muscles, helping them maintain their mobility. It removes tension from the muscles without damaging them.
3. Trigger Point
As its name indicates, trigger point massage is aimed at specific painful areas affected by running injury, such as dead leg or muscle fever. It is aimed at relieving knotted muscles, improving blood flow, and regaining flexibility and mobility in the muscle.
It is recommended for lighter injuries where there is no tearing of the tissue, only problems with reduced mobility due to muscle knotting and pain, such as calf strain and hamstring injuries.
4. Deep Muscle Massage
This should not be confused with deep pressure massage, such as in the case of the active release technique. This massage therapy is aimed at reaching the deepest layers of muscles and fascia, relieving tension and improving blood flow. It is recommended for specific problem areas but, unlike trigger massage, it works the entire muscle, not just the injured portion of it.
These four types of massage can help you heal faster from running injury, but only if they are performed by a licensed professional.
Having the wrong type of massage performed on your muscles can actually make matters worse, so always seek your physio’s advice regarding the opportunity to add massage therapy to your recovery plan.