As a massage therapist, I work with a lot of athletes but most often my clients are runners. They seek treatment for all, or a combo of, the same aches and pains in their IT bands, quads, hamstrings, glutes, sacrum, and calves. Did you know that most of these pains that turn into long-term, chronic pain is stemming from the hips?
Think about it. You strain your IT band, but as a dedicated runner you can’t sit still, so you don’t allow yourself the full recovery time. Or, even more likely, you didn’t admit to yourself that you really do have an IT band injury until miles and miles after you initially felt the pain. Whether you realize it or not, the moment that injury occurred, you began adjusting your gait to compensate for the pain. That compensation happened in the hips and worked it’s way up and down your body affecting all the muscles along the way. You unknowingly get used to this new unaligned gait and now you’ve got yourself some hip issues.
I believe all runners–even ones in optimal health–should take a yoga class at least once a week, and get massaged at least once a month. If recovering from an injury, then the frequency of massage should increase along with physical therapy, if prescribed by your doctor. Many have cited they are able to reduce or even stop pain medication all together just by this therapeutic combo of yoga, massage and physical therapy.
The number one reason I recommend yoga to my clients is because it opens up your hips. Yoga focuses on those typical problem areas for runners and helps relieve the pressure of impact running can cause on your joints. Not only does the stretching feel amazing, but it gradually coaxes your body back into correct alignment while strengthening your muscles. Holding various poses increases stamina, calms the mind, and improves balance and flexibility. I also find it reduces post-run soreness and shortens the recovery time.
Personally, I’m at a point now where I need yoga in order to feel better after a run. I’m not a distance runner, but even 5k’ers like me are at risk for chronic pain due to running. Everyone, of all fitness levels, can benefit from practicing yoga.
There is a plethora of significant reasons why massage should play a role in your overall health, but here are some fitness-specific reasons:
- Relaxes and softens injured and overused muscles
- Reduces spasms and cramping
- Increases joint flexibility
- Reduces recovery time, helps prepare for strenuous workouts and eliminates subsequent pains of the athlete at any level
- Releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller – and is being used in chronic illness, injury and recovery from surgery to control and relieve pain.
- Reduces post-surgery adhesions and edema and can be used to reduce and realign scar tissue after healing has occurred.
- Improves range-of-motion and decreases discomfort for patients with low back pain.
- Provides exercise and stretching for atrophied muscles and reduces shortening of the muscles for those with restricted range of motion.
For the full list of massage benefits, check out my blog next week or visit Massagetherapy.com
Also, be sure you are seeing a licensed massage therapist. You can verify your therapist is licensed by looking on the wall of their treatment center for their license certificate (a requirement in PA and most other states) and/or by Googling “verify massage therapist is licensed, <state>”. For example, here’s my proof on Pennsylvania’s website: Meridith Bickford Oram
Prolong Your Running Career
Running is the ultimate form of cardio fitness, but it is extremely rare to find a runner who doesn’t have aches and pains at some point throughout their career. I’ve seen older runners end up bow-legged from not getting the proper therapy for their hips, sacrum (lower back) and knees. It is so important to take care of the body you have, and the earlier you start, the better. Be grateful for what your body allows you to do, but also nurture it so that it can keep doing what it’s doing for many more years. I strongly believe that yoga and massage will help the longevity of your fitness level and reduce pain.
*Image is from 99designs.com