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Will Massage Help your Running Injury? A Blog about common runner injuries & what we can do about t!

In Motion with Morrison Blog

Written by Aubrey Morrison 

MS Sports Medicine, CSCS, Licensed Massage Therapist #16763

I am a little biased, but while some types of injuries may need medical treatment, MASSAGE can absolutely help you recover from and prevent common overuse injuries or strains that come from running! Not only that, but we can chat about what is going on and what may be causing it to happen – whether it is a muscular imbalance from other things you do every day, too many miles or intensity too fast, not enough recovery, postural issues, or simply lack of mobility and flexibility. Particularly now while gyms have been closed and we have likely been stuck at home, running has seemed to be a go-to part of a home workout regime. Whether you took up running sometime in the last couple of months, been a runner for years, or have recently picked up your mileage for a race you’ve chosen; there are a number of common complaints and injuries that you may be struggling with. The good news is, they often can be managed and prevented from worsening to keep you training! This article will go over some of those common runner injuries, what to expect from a massage session to target them, and how it will help.

If you have some degree of muscles imbalance (for example, tight quadriceps and weak glutes that contribute to a pelvic tilt), you may have been able to get away with some recreational running a couple times a week with no noticeable problems. However, if you have changed it up somehow and added more workouts, more mileage per run, or more intensity – you may have started to feel some things! Being smart about a gradual mileage increase will help your body adjust to new demands and get stronger, but more mileage also brings out issues that just have not gotten a chance to present themselves in some kind of way. Feeling pain in one area can indicate a problem in another area. But sometimes it’s simply overuse! How can you tell?! We can help with that, as well as treat it and tell you what you can do on your own to get better.

One of the most common injuries I come across with runners is IT Band Syndrome (iliotibial band). Basically, the IT band helps stabilize the leg (particularly at the knee) during weight bearing. It starts as a muscle in the front/side of the hip called the tensor fascia latae muscle and becomes a long band of tendon that attaches into the outside of your knee and into your tibia. The gluteus maximus also directly attaches into that same long tendon. It runs in close proximity with the portion of quadricep muscle on the outside of your thigh. When muscles that associate with the IT band are not functioning properly or are too worn out from overtraining, the IT band makes up for the slack and that’s where problems arise! Treatment is about helping calm the chronic inflammation and get the involved muscle tissue in the hip area healthy and mobile again; we also may have to “unstick” the IT tendon from the lateral quadricep muscle that it sits across. Aren’t sure it is your IT band giving you problems? Well the most common symptom of inflammation is lateral knee pain or even lateral thigh pain. Symptoms of general dysfunction that may lead to a nagging IT band inflammation are general hip and thigh tightness, difficulty stretching the hip and quadriceps, one-sided low back tightness, and many say that they feel as though they are running unevenly as if one leg is stronger than the other and they have to “think about” running with an even stride. Getting your IT band MASSAGED and worked on may be a little intense, but it can do the trick!

Achilles tendonitis is another common one. This is pain felt low in the calf/back of the ankle and can be tough to get rid of once it gets started. Best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place by not overtraining and stretching your calves and lower body properly! Easier said than done, especially now when gyms are limited, and running is most convenient as a daily workout. But that advice is not helpful if you have it already! Just as with any inflammation, first step is to calm it with ice and rest. We will absolutely use ice during treatment for an inflamed area! Depending on how new the injury is or if it has been chronic will determine the depth of treatment, but we will focus largely on ankle and calf mobility, releasing any knots or adhesions that may be deep in the calf muscle. INSTRUMENT ASSISTED SOFT TISSUE MOBILIZATION (scraping) is particularly affective for this area because it can do some things that hands cannot for the *musculotendinous junction* in the lower leg, where the muscles of the calf are becoming the incredibly strong tendon that turns into your Achilles tendon and then your plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot. This may include some scraping to release adhesions, and some cupping can loosen things up and improve blood flow. We will likely even work all the way up to the hamstring and hip. Healing acute inflammation is often a waiting game (like if it happened suddenly and quickly) but we can help; chronic inflammation is usually caused by some kind of dysfunction somewhere, and we can help figure out what’s going on and get you on the road to RECOVERY!

Next is Runner’s Knee, which is inflammation of the patellar tendon and is characterized as pain around or under the kneecap. Something is going on to make the patella (the kneecap) track irregularly, and the cause is often the imbalance from overactive and tight quadriceps and weaker inactive glutes. If quads are doing all the work, it will directly affect the knee where those muscles insert. We can help calm the inflammation in the knee with some ice and light scraping, but more importantly WE CAN TARGET the cause of the inflammation to prevent it from coming back. Releasing the quadriceps from tension and restriction will help, as well as stretching them; but to really keep runner’s knee at bay, activating the weak glutes and core stabilizing muscles will be key. Although exercises are not a part of the massage session, we can give you some direction as to what you could be doing to correct the muscle imbalance.

Last but not least, plantar fasciitis. This is definitely not limited to runners! It is simply inflammation of the fascia under your foot, but the cause could be several things. So, we treat all the possibilities! It could be a new running shoe that doesn’t properly support your arch, it could be lack of rest days, it could be tight and immobile calves, it could be dysfunction further up into your hip… but with a few questions and once we get to work and feel around, we can narrow it down pretty well! When we TREAT plantar fasciitis, we treat the low back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, shin, and foot. We apply pressure, we cup and scrape, we stretch, and we tell you what to do at home. Needless to say, we don’t mess around with plantar fasciitis because it can be tough to get rid of! But we will get you there and have helped lots of people do so!

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is some common issues we come across with runners. You may have a different problem related to running and don’t worry, we can help you out too. I have been a runner almost my entire life, and I get that we want to ignore pains and get that next run in and hope it magically goes away! Well sometimes it might; but sometimes it doesn’t and needs intervention. The best thing to do is to not wait until you are limping around from pushing too far through an injury! Get it when it first presents itself or prevent it from happening in the first place. We get plenty of athletes who come for preventative work simply to keep muscle tissue healthy and to get any mobility imbalances worked out before they cause an injury that could halt training. Scheduling a SPORTS MASSAGE will do the trick, and if you know you really need some detailed work and stretching then schedule a MOBILITY MAKER. We will do everything we can to keep you on the road!

Here is the link to directly book a Sports Massage, Plantar Fasciitis Massage, or Mobility Maker!

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