Ask a Massage Therapist – Running Injuries and Marathon Training
This weeks question…
With the London Marathon coming up, what are the most common injuries that you see in your running clients, and how do you think regular massage can help someone who is training for a marathon?
At this time of year I get a lot of clients coming to me with knee pain or ‘runners knee’ – but closer assessment often shows that they are often suffering from very tight quads close to the quadriceps tendon, or on the lateral side of the leg near the IT band.
An interesting fact is that ‘runners knee’ is more common in women than men, which is likely due to the anatomy of the female pelvis and hips. The usual treatment I provide is to loosen up and release tension all over the quads and into the hip flexors as well as the take-away home-care advice of specific stretches for the quads to release tightness and improve flexibility around the joints.
Massage offers the benefit of being able to coax the muscles and tendons into better alignment, which means faster healing and reduced pain during the recovery process.
The most common issue I see is probably Achilles tenderness, knee pain and hip tightness.
As well as usual benefits of sports massage during training – regular treatment could highlight potential issues that client may not be aware of before they become a problem, so that preemptive treatment can be taken.
Achilles and calf tightness is a very common one – it depends on how sensible they’ve been with building up their milage! If you’re not a regular runner and you all of a sudden start pounding the pavements as hard as you can, the body doesn’t get chance to adapt and things can start breaking down. So many injuries could be prevented by just building up slowly to the longer distances, taking proper rest days and listening to your body and not pushing through the pain.
I think one of the most helpful ways massage can help during marathon training is just by bringing an awareness to the parts of the body which aren’t injured yet, but have the potential to be. Any areas of tension get highlighted when you get a massage, which gives you an opportunity to pay attention to and focus on those areas outside of the treatment room.
Especially at this time of the year when everyone is starting to run, or is getting back to running and preparing a race of some sort, I generally see 5 common types of “runner’s pain” – Achilles tendon pain, pain under the knee cap, pain on the medial (inside) side of the knee cap, the infamous ITB syndrome and hip flexor pain.
All can have different causes but good news is, in most cases these are manageable with massage or manual therapy. Very often, the muscle is just a bit overloaded and needs to be released. Foam rolling, Epsom salt baths, adapted hydration, nutrition and sleep will all help this too but having someone working on the muscles that need relief is often a smart choice for a sustainable, injury-free training.
During the treatment, the release of muscular tension is important of course, but I personally enjoy trying to identify the cause and improve body awareness and self-care knowledge in my clients. Sometime a little tweak as simple as showing how to stretch effectively or warm up properly can make a world of difference!
With the marathon season coming up, runners tend to look for help to go through this period of progressive increase of training.
The most common running injuries I see in clinic are ‘shin splints’ (pain in the inside of the leg along the shin bone), plantar fascitis, problems in the calf muscles and/or achilles tendon, pain on the inside of the knee, and stiff hip flexors.
A lot of the time I think these injuries have been caused by running too much too soon, insufficient stretching, weakness in certain muscles, unadapted foot wear or problems with running technique.
Sports massage can be a really helpful accompaniment during marathon training to prevent and/or treat injuries. I use a range of sports massage technique to release muscle tension and increase flexibility as well as addressing movement restrictions at specific joints.
But my advice is to warm-up properly before running, stretch afterwards, don’t overdo it, and get regular treatment!