If you are a runner (or take part in any sport) sports massage therapy should be an integral part of your preparation and recovery plan. Massage does not only aid the injured runner, but also helps keep injuries at bay, “prevention is better than the cure”. Below I have laid out some benefits of sports massage and soft tissue therapy.

Sports massage works through a combination of physical, physiological, and psychological processes. A combination of different techniques bring about a desired change in the tissue. These are some of the effects of sports massage on the runner.

1. Clearance of Lactic acid from tissues.

Intense physical activity leading to insufficient oxygen supply to meet energetic demands will result partial degradation of glucose and a production of lactate that exceeds its removal. The accumulation of lactate in muscles tissue has been linked to the increase in muscles fatigue and the decrease in muscles performance. Massage can help to clear this lactate from the muscles.

2. Stretching effects

Massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched by other methods. The bundles of muscle fibers (fasciculi) are stretched sideways and longitudinally. Massage also stretches the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build-up within.

3.  Restores muscles and tissue back to pre-exercise state

When you take part in physical activity muscles can become tight, shortened and fatigued. Massage is one of the best ways for relieving these muscles tensions. It can help release contracted muscles and lengthen tight ones. The type of muscle tension will have an effect on what type of massage is used by me. Deep tissue massage is effective with deeper muscle tension, increased pressure is needed to reach underlying muscles. These techniques will all help to relieve tension and restore the tissue back to pre-exercise state. Tension is relieved through circulation being stimulated. This blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients and is key to helping muscles eliminated waste products.

Cardiff Physiotherapy


4. Pumping blood and lymphatic fluids around the runner’s body

The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissues, as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.

5. Increasing a runner’s tissue permeability

Sports massage causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through more easily. This helps remove waste products such as lactic acid and nitrogen which pools in tissue and causes fatigue.It also encourages the runner’s muscles to take up more oxygen and nutrients, which in turn aid recovery.

6. Improving tissue elasticity

Running day after day can make tissues hard and inelastic. This is one reason why hard training may not result in improvements. Massage helps reverse this by stretching the tissues and circulating blood and nutrients around the body. At my Cardiff sports therapy clinic i take my clients through a series of pre-tests to determine wether muscles are shortened, weak or both. This is an important part of treatment therapy and the cornerstone to any good diagnosis.

7. Opening microcirculation

Massage increases blood flow to tissues.  What massage also does though, is open or dilate the blood vessels by stretching them. This enables nutrients to pass through the runner’s body more easily.

Best physiotherapy in Cardiff

8. Relaxing muscles

Muscles relax through the heat generated, circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors in the muscle, senses- touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth. When these are stimulated there is a reflex relaxation of the muscles.This helps tissue recover quicker. Through the effects mentioned earlier relaxation is induced and so reduces anxiety levels. Invigorating the runner’s mind If massage is done with brisk movements. This type of massage technique is called tapotment and is very effective in preparing tissues for exercise. This technique along with vibrations (if they are performed irregularly) can produces an invigorating feeling for the runner.

When should you have a sports massage?

Sports massage can be used for pre, during and post training or competition phase. Its useful for recovery after a major event like a marathon or half, and can be employed immediately after, or a day or two after. The best results are obtained when the massage is performed regularly. It is advisable not to have a deep tissue massage the day before a big race (or on the same day) as this could have the effect of making you tired and lethargic, or in some cases it might leave your muscles sore, which could impact on your performance on the big day. You should get used to the feeling of post massage legs during your training. The key rule here is not to do anything different on race that you haven’t tested in training.

If you are training for a marathon or half, or any race for that matter and you’d like to try sport therapy then get in contact here