Sports Massage for Runners: Why Experts Recommend It

, Friday, 5 November 2021

Are you a runner and want not to miss your next running session? No matter whether you’re in a recovery period or simply fearing frequent strains, you can’t ignore this alarm from your body that your muscles need help for relaxing, draining, and revitalizing. It’s the reason every elite runner never misses the call for a sports massage for runners. They’re too punctual in paying homage to their muscles by taking care of them with the help of a sports massage expert.

But the question is, do you need it right now; are sports massages any good for runners while they have no direct relationship with recovery? Wondering?

We’ll answer the question and support the answer through  sports massage experts’ opinions, and scientific studies. Stay with us to know why, when, and how a sports massage can help you perform better while staying disciplined with your running schedule.

running alomne in the forest

Sports Massage for Runners: How Running Affects Your Body?

To be on track with fit shoes, speed and enthusiasm doesn’t come easy. It can come with many problems, commonly known as runners’ injuries. Some of these problems are here, which may affect your body and performance if left unattended.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral syndrome, is a broad term for discomfort at the front of the knee or around the kneecap. It can be one of the most common issues that every runner faces at some stage.

Weak hip muscles surrounding your knee can be a reason for the runner’s knee. Runner’s knee can produce discomfort in the following ways:

  • A sick feeling in one or both knees
  • Moderate to extreme pain that gets worse when you extend your sitting or activity session like walking, running, jumping, or exercises.
  • Unbearable pain and popping sound after a more extended period of inactivity, like sitting or sleeping.

IT Band Syndrome

The iliotibial band, or the IT band, is a lengthy stretch of connective tissue that extends from your outer hip to your knee. When you walk or run, this band of tissue serves to support your knee.

IT band syndrome happens when the IT band pushes on your leg bone repeatedly. Due to tight IT bands, it is pretty frequent for runners. This issue may also be caused by weak gluteal muscles, abdominals, or hips.

IT band syndrome is characterized by severe discomfort on the outside of your leg, generally right above your knee. Your IT band may be sensitive to touch as well. When you bend your knee, the discomfort usually worsens.

Achilles Tendinitis

To be a runner and unfamiliar with Achilles Tendinitis? No way!

The little muscle pain can trouble either your speed or completely restrict you from running. You can’t afford it as a runner!

Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon that links the calf muscle to your heel. It often results when you’re trying to increase your running intensity.

Achilles tendinitis, if left untreated, can worsen the situation enough that it’ll rupture the Achilles tendon, and the only solution will be surgery, which can cost your time and gaol as well. The common symptoms of Achilles tendonitis are:

  • A dull ache in your lower leg, right above your heel, accompanied by swelling along your Achilles tendon.
  • A restricted range of motion while bending your foot toward your shin and a warm sensation across the tendon.
sports massage for runners and injury prevention

Shin Splints

Shin splints (tibial stress syndrome) are pains that develop along your shinbone in the front or inside sections of your lower legs. Shin splints can result from increasing your running timings too soon, especially if you run on rugged terrain.

Shin splints are usually not severe and go away with rest and massage. They can, however, become a reason for fractures if left untreated.

Shin splints symptoms include a dull discomfort along the front or inside section of your shinbone pain that worsens with exercise sensitivity to touch minor swelling.

Shin splints commonly improve with rest or by reducing how frequently you run time and getting a good sports massage.

Hamstring Injuries

During the swing part of your running cycle, your hamstrings assist in decelerating your lower leg. Your hamstrings may be more prone to injury if they are tight, weak, or weary.

Unlike sprinters, distance runners are less likely to suffer from a hamstring strain. Most distance runners suffer from hamstring strains caused by recurrent tiny rips in the hamstring muscle’s fibers and connective tissue.

You may encounter the following symptoms if you have a hamstring injury:

  • A dull ache in your upper leg’s back
  • A tender hamstring muscle if touched
  • Weak or stiff hamstrings

Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a hairline break in your bone that develops due to repeated stress or pressure. Stress fractures usually occur in runners’ top of the foot, the heel, or the lower leg.

It’s a good idea to consult a doctor straight soon if you feel you have a stress fracture. They’ll require an X-ray to identify a stress fracture.

Swelling, bruising, or soreness in the fracture location are common symptoms of a stress fracture. At first, the discomfort may be hardly perceptible, but as the pain increases, it may be felt even while you’re at rest.

A stress fracture usually takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal, and you may need to use crutches or wear a cast for a while.

Ankle Sprain

Overstretching the ligaments between your leg and ankle causes ankle sprains. When you fall on the outside of your foot and roll your ankle over, you might have a sprain.

The following are some of the most common signs of an ankle sprain:

  • Bruising
  • Discoloration
  • Swelling
  • Restricted range of motion

Ankle sprains usually recover with rest, self-care, or physical therapy. It might take weeks or months for them to recover. Yet, additional measures like sports massage sessions can be helpful in boosting the process.

Does Sports Massage Help with Runners’ Injuries?

“Yes, it does,” if you ask us for a simple answer. Yet, to be sure whether and how much sports massage or deep pressure massage can be helpful, you need shreds of evidence. It’s the reason we’ve got you science-backed studies about the effectiveness of sports massage.

Crane’s study, published in Science Translational Medicine, discovered that massaged limbs had reduced inflammation and 30% more of a gene that helps muscle cells generate mitochondria.

At Ohio State University, Thomas Best, M.D., Ph.D., experimented on Rabbits. He implanted a device that simulates massage and records the applied pressure on exercised animals. 

He also confirmed that Crane’s findings were right. He stated they found an increase in muscular function recovery in animals by 50-60% compared with no massage.

Hence, it’s pretty convincing that sports massage not only does it feel great but can also speed recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and facilitate injury healing.

But can you imagine that sports massage also has to do great with your mood, and as the mood improves, it positively affects the recovery process? According to studies, a good massage increases the production of dopamine and serotonin, which ultimately allows you to recover fast by improving blood circulation and eliminating toxins.

Are Sports Massages Good for Runners in General?

It’s pretty convincing that a sports massage not only feels great, but it can also speed recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and facilitate injury healing. It helps you in the following ways:

  • It promotes circulation. This aids in removing metabolic waste products from your weary muscles.
  • Gentle but prolonged flowing massage strokes help in releasing muscle tension without harming the fibers.
  • It Increases muscle tissue permeability by allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach your muscle cells faster and waste products to be removed.
  • It can improve the orientation of your muscle fibers after muscle remodeling and hard training by breaking down the scar tissues.
  • Maintenance massages are an excellent method for discovering and correcting tighter areas before they get injured. Thus, it’s prevention too.

Effects of Sports Massage in Relation with Runners Injuries Types

Do you want to know how sports massage can help you with different runners’ injuries and minor issues that can lead to severe problems that stop you from running in the future? 

By every means, sports massage is what you can do to your running-sicken muscles or to prepare them for the next session. Here is how it helps.

Sports Massage for Runner’s Knee

Runners are prone to knee ailments. Knee pain in runners is most usually felt on the lateral side of the knee or the front of the knee. Knee discomfort in runners results from a combination of factors, including muscular weakness or tightness, poor biomechanics, inappropriate footwear, or training approaches. 

Massage works like stretching to loosen the muscles; however, massage has the additional benefits of aligning the muscles and tendons better. The following methods of sports massage can help relieve the runner’s knee.

Sports Massage for IT Band Syndrome

Massage can be beneficial for IT Band, but only when you massage the IT band. Massage on the IT band is contraindicated during an acute pain attack.

It’ll also assist in loosening the hip muscles, resulting in alleviation in the ITB itself. The neighboring hamstrings and quads can also be relaxed, “ungluing” the ITB from them and allowing the ITB to move freely. 

If the sports massage is so helpful, then which one is the best? Unlike traditional sports massages or ITB, Thai massage will be more useful. It’ll include:

  • Thai Traditional Massage
  • Thai Sports Massage
  • Thai Neuromuscular (for more in-depth bodywork)

Sports Massage for Achilles Tendinitis

Believe it or not, sports massage can amazingly benefit your Achilles Tendinitis. Why are we so confident?

Well, the studies published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports and Medicines show that pressure massage is one of the best ways to cure your Achilles Tendinitis. Pressure massage produces similar outcomes as eccentric exercise therapy does.

Sports Massage for Shin Splints

Because they increase the strain on your lower leg, tight calf muscles are a typical cause of shin splints. Various sports massages can help to eliminate this pain.

Professional therapists who are competent in massaging muscles to stretch them and relieve tension may perform deep Tissue Massage. As a result, it provides significant pain relief while also aiding in the prevention of scar tissue formation.

The light t- medium pressure of Relaxation Massage increases circulation by allowing lymphatic fluid to move, which takes metabolic waste away from muscles.

Sports massage focuses on muscle-tendon junctions, shortens recovery time after an exercise, and enhances muscles’ flexibility to reduce the injury risk.

Sports Massage for Ankle Pain: Strain or Sprain

Sprained ankle occurs when the ankle ligaments strain or even rupture because of the ankle-twisting underneath. The cross friction massage is used to repair the sprained ankle.

After the acute phase, cross friction massage on the injured ligaments aids in healing and prevents scar tissue impacts from forming. 

Deep Tissue massage is an additional method that focuses on the deeper muscle tissues. It can relieve muscular tension on the bottom of the foot by maintaining blood and oxygen circulation.

Sports Massage for Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring injuries can happen when these muscles become tight and then are abruptly stretched beyond their comfortable limit. Usually, the muscles might rupture, resulting in an audible “pop.”Sports massage can help to avert hamstring injury as well, besides the healing of hamstrings.

Weekly Sports massage helps keep the hamstring muscles healthy by extending the muscles and releasing tight places that might contribute to injury in the future.

Massage can also reduce scar tissue and tight muscles, improve blood flow, and aid in gradually extending the affected muscles after a hamstring strain.

Sports Massage for Stress Fracture

No, no….we don’t say that you should massage a stress fracture area at the critical stage of healing. Yet, you can get a healing massage from some sports expert.

Sports Massage both soothes and stimulates muscles.

When used appropriately, it decreases pain at the injury site. It minimizes muscular tension, and inflammation massage therapy further helps in the healing process by restoring the tissues’ strength and integrity.

Massage therapy can be utilized at the initial stage of recovery. Massage may often be administered around the fractured areas to benefit you, even when you’re wearing a cast.

sports massage for runners - climbing the wall

What type of Massage is Best for Runners?

Every massage that you’ll get by the licensed massage therapist will prove best because it’ll be according to the diagnosis of your problem and your body’s relaxation needs. Yet, here are the types of different sports massage and how they are helpful for runners:

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage, often known as a relaxation massage, is the massage you can also get in spas. Swedish or Effleurage is a type of massage that facilitates relaxation, blood circulation, and lymph flow. It is distinguished by the use of massage oil and long strokes.

Effleurage helps with blood circulation by raising muscles’ temperature and preparing them for more intensive massage methods. Besides this, Effleurage boosts the lymphatic system as well. As a result, the lymphatic system makes the cell waste leave the body and ultimately maintain excellent health for the next activity.

Traditional Sports Massage

Traditional sports massage specifically helps the pro-runners and athletes.

Depending on the session objectives and the massage therapist’s expertise, sports massage may use stretching and components from other massage styles. 

It’s ideal for runners who want to maintain excellent health not to miss their training and competitions. Sports massage is often divided into three categories:

  • Injury rehabilitation massage to heal chronic and acute injuries;
  • pre- and post-race support;
  • Maintenance massage

Neuromuscular & Trigger Point Therapy

A competent massage therapist knows the trigger points and their associated referral patterns and uses static pressure to aid their release in this therapy.

It’s great for runners who want to get rid of chronic pain, improve their muscles’ flexibility, strength, and range of motion. 

Deep Tissue Massage

Most runners have heard of deep tissue massage, which is sometimes mistaken with deep pressure. Unlike trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage targets both the upper and deep layers of muscles and fascia. This treatment is relatively intense because of the purposeful and focused nature of the massage.

As opposed to trigger point treatment, deep tissue massages often target a few particular problem spots and work the entire muscle to relieve muscle adhesions. Sports massage therapists frequently use deep tissue massage during intense training segments since runners often have several tight places and interrelated difficulties.

FAQS about Sports Massage for Runners

How often should I get a sports massage?

You have complete control over the frequency of your massage. Regular massage can prevent future injuries by easing up the tight regions that are caught before they are inflamed and put you at serious risk. 

When you get that massage after your last intense race, your body stays healed. The deeper the massage, the longer it takes you to recover and function, similar to an exhausting run. 

If you want to have a massage before your next major race, give yourself at least three days off. If you haven’t had a massage in a long time, now is the moment to go to the massage therapist. 

Will sports massage cause stiffness in the body?

You might have heard some people saying that they felt sick after receiving a good massage or they had a painful massage. It signifies that, in fact, muscles release a lot of toxins, which may be flushed out by taking more liquids. If massage is to be successful, it should not be painful. Yet, it takes time to recover from a vigorous massage and not feel fatigued. Isn’t it simple to arrange a massage and a hard workout? 

Is Swedish massage or Effleurage better for runners?

Yes, Swedish massage is utilized in the days leading up to a major competition or as a rehabilitation massage technique following strenuous training. A Swedish massage can help you relax after a tough training week and boost your power speed as you run faster. 

Yes, Swedish massage is utilized in the days leading up to a major competition or as a rehabilitation massage technique following strenuous training. A Swedish massage can help you relax after a tough training week and boost your power speed as you run faster. 

Swedish massage utilizes long flowing and relaxing strokes at varying pressures, always gentle, to release muscle tension, enhance blood flow, and reduce muscular stiffness.

Can I run after a sports massage?

No, you can’t run after a good massage. The therapists recommend you to wait at least 24 hours before you go running.

What’s the best time to have a post-race massage?

As soon as you finish the race, a very light, relaxing massage might be therapeutic, and many events have their volunteer therapists at the finish line — ready to comfort your tired limbs. 

It is suggested that you wait at least 24 hours before getting a hard or deeper massage, to avoid any additional inflammation in the muscles that may have already happened during the race owing to tissue breakdown.

Final Thoughts

From a beginner level runner to a professional runner, everyone needs to maintain good health for disciplined training and computing. In this regard, sports massage for runners is one of the best things you can do with your body.

Remember, try not to get a self-massage at home. If you have any problem or injury, first visit your physician, and go to a qualified massage therapist after a doctor’s advice. 

You can also visit us at for monthly or weekly massage sessions’ appointments. Your dedicated sports massage therapist at Massaggi is well equipped with the expertise to help you enjoy the best of your health as a runner.

Ben has been a practical pain management trainer and a celebrated massage therapist. He believes human well-being is deeply connected to the health of mind and body both, including deep tissues. He holds numerous certifications for best of breeds massage techniques helping him on a mission for healthy London and then rest of the world. He has been an active contributor in massage technique research and on Massaggi blog.