Is Massage Therapy Good for Runners?



By Jen Hyland, RMT


Runners are going to run, whether they should or shouldn’t. As the daughter of a marathoner, I grew up watching my dad peel off blood soaked socks and shoes for years before he finally figured out his footwear. For some reason, this made me think that all runners were disgusting, and it couldn’t possibly be good for you. Thankfully, my teenage fears were proved completely wrong. Running is healthy for most people, there are sock and shoe combinations that prevent bleeding, and we’re pretty sure that running does not cause osteoarthritis (link to  https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/does-exercise-contribute-to-arthritis-cinnamon-treatment-for-diabetes). In fact, weight bearing exercise like running, is good for maintaining bone mass, and contributes to cardiovascular health.

Whether it is the drive to finish a race, or the need to get out with friends, sometimes people continue running on an injury.  My simple advice is that if it hurts when you run, it’s time to get the injury checked out. Your RMT can conduct a physical assessment, and combine that with your health history to come up with a treatment plan.  Massage therapists know how to treat common running injuries including sprains and strains, tendinopathies, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral syndrome, and adhesions in your IT band.

For general athletic maintenance, frequent massage helps your body to recover more quickly, preventing or minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Your massage therapist can also keep an eye out for muscle imbalances or weaknesses, and send you home with stretches and strengthening exercises to improve your performance.  Studies show that muscles may recover up to 60% faster with massage therapy.  ( link highlighted text to  https://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/the-pros-and-cons-of-massages-for-runners). I find hot stone massage is particularly effective to help athletes with chronically tight hamstrings and calves – the warmth of the stone lets me work deeply to help maintain flexibility.

Race management

When you’re training for a major race (hello Boston!) including regular massage therapy beforehand can help prevent injuries.  Your last deep massage work will happen about a week beforehand, but you may want a 15-30 minute massage 24 hours before a race to help you relax and feel prepared.  Post-race, scheduled massages will help you recover and get back to training.