Importance of Sports Massage
Monday 6th January 2014
Last year, I ran my first marathon! The Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon, in County Cork, Ireland, on 7th December 2013. It took about 6 months of training where I had to increase my distance and regularity and it goes without saying that it was not an easy challenge!
I truly believe that some of the problems I encountered whilst training would have been alleviated had I gone for regular sports massage. This is where I would like to stress the importance of getting sports massage when you are training and exercising a lot for whichever sporting discipline you may be in-volved in. Even if you are not training for anything in particular but just a regular gym goer, enjoy physical exercise or you may be in a profession where you have to be physically active, sports massage in these circumstances may help you more than you realise.
This is because when you are using your muscles a great deal and pushing them to work harder and harder, you are very likely to build up chronic knots and tension in the muscle fibres. These knots then lead to other problems such as disturbing good circulation, good energy flow, pull or tension in the joints, pain and stiffness, reducing flexibility, reducing quality of motion, increasing possibility of injury etc., all of which no doubt affects your physical performance. This is only just the physiological symptoms, there will also be psychological effects such as stress and anxiety, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, feeling deflated etc.
In my case, I had probably over-trained and perhaps was increasing my distance too early which meant about 6 weeks before the marathon, I developed a knee injury. This was on top of the ankle pain I had been suffering from as well as some lower back and right hip pain, and sometimes left shoulder tension and stiffness...pretty much whole body really! However the knee pain was the most distressing and affected my training a great deal. I knew I had knots in my leg muscles, especially the right quadriceps and I had always spent time stretching after my runs, which is also very important, but I had not gone for any sports massage.
With the knee pain, I was not able to run and train as much as I'd planned and this was distressing me a great deal... the psychological effects...
Anyway it was only then I decided to go for a sports massage treatment, but by this time it was about 4 weeks to go until the marathon. As I expected, I had many knots especially on the right leg, and not only the quadriceps but my therapist found my right ITB (Iliotibial Band-a tendinous band on the outside thigh from hip to knee) very tight and she applied the much needed deep pressure massage there, it was somewhat painful!
So this was no doubt a contributor to my right knee pain, the condition being runners knee, (patella femoral syndrome), quite common amongst runners. Tightness in quadriceps and the ITB which can cause some mal-tracking of the knee cap are amongst the usual suspects in the runners knee crime!
I also found the culprit for my ankle pain when I went for my second sports massage just two days be-fore the marathon. I had known that my calves were tight but whilst self-massage is easy enough to do on your own quadriceps, it is not so much easy access on the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). The therapist found I had a chronic knot on the inner side of my right calf muscle. This would be the reason for the Achilles tendon tightness as well as the pain I'd been getting around the inner ankle (medial malleolus). Nothing a bit of STR (soft tissue release - a sports massage technique) wouldn't have solved...had I been getting it!
So with the two sports massages I received in the run up to the marathon, a bit of kinesiology taping to the right knee, some stretching and strengthening knee exercises, lots of joint vitamins, and my desire to achieve, I was able to complete the full 26.2 miles marathon in 5 hours 5 minutes.
Along the race, I did suffer knee pain, ankle pain, as well as exhaustion and hunger!...ok exhaustion and hunger were my test of getting the sports nutrition right, but I have no doubt that the joint pains, tightness and tension I had to battle through would have been less or even minimal had I been getting regular sports massage during the course of my training. I could have even finished the race under 5 hours! As a sports massage therapist, I really should have known better! :)
Therefore my message is clear and simple... sports massage is of key importance in the prevention and management of injury - do not underestimate it!