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What the Current Research Says About Massage Therapy and Running

Friday, April 11, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mark Alpert
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by Scott Lesieur

I have a lot of experience with massage and running.

I am a forty-something male and have been running since I learned to walk. I did cross country, track and wrestling in school, military and college. I have three children that I am running with now, but they ride their bikes while Daddy runs. I have run distances from 5k to 62 miles, and have seen firsthand a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after all events where I have gotten post-event massage, from a 40%-100% improvement. The 100% was after a 50k that I hadn’t trained that well for. My bias as a therapist for 16 years is trumped by the fact that I have been a runner much longer, plus I can factor in the experience I have in receiving massage, which something people get better at over time.

I was interested in what the research says about runners who get massage, so I decided to write this blog.

This article talks about how education of the therapist makes a difference in result of post-event massage. But it is looking at students, and I get post-event massage from therapists that have had training and experience in sports massage, so my personal experience is different. This study made me wonder about what would happen with professional therapists-- would that experiment get the same result? More research ideas!

Like most runners I know, I don't usually stretch (sometimes if a friend does I will). Up until this year my training was sporadic at best. I have always trained on the low end at 0-35 miles per week, even when preparing for ultras of 50 and 100 miles. But one thing I do regularly is receive massage: 30-40 a year for the past 10-plus years.

This article suggests that regular massage can get you to the starting line. If it can get you to your race, think of how many other things it will help you get to the starting line for. 

I have received, and I am a believer! From my experience of years of event running, you see three main groups getting post-event massage: those that have been getting massage and use it regularly, their friends who aren’t sure but do it because it was recommended, and those that hurt more than they thought they would, and will try anything to make the pain go away. And those new-to-massage people, once they receive, they become regular users and recommend massage to their friends and others. Let’s keep this cycle going!

This article reports on a questionnaire of participants at an event. It asked how they felt about massage and other CAM therapies, it found that those that had received massage had a stronger belief that massage worked-- just as I have seen.  I think we just have to get people on the table to make a difference. 

The research on running isn't always consistent. One study says that the best time to get a massage is right after your run. Another study says during training is best: that those that received massage during training were more able to do their race: only half of the control group made it to the starting line. Most of the research has been on small groups, and not many studies have made it to print. Who is going to help build more evidence for massage and running?

Are you interested in putting research together? Do you have a group that you would like to research but don’t know how? I know for me this article was the kick in the butt I needed to make some phone calls and start my own research project. Maybe next year I will be blogging about the results of an article that I was part of.

Click here for the Massage Therapy Foundation website

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