If you are an avid runner, one of the most common sites you might see at the end of a marathon are massage stations. Indeed, the sports massage has quickly become one of the most popular kinds of massages out there, not only for runners, but for athletes or anyone who keeps physically fit.
While most sports massage techniques are similar, there are tailor-made massage techniques for runners, weightlifters and athletes of a particular sport, which are meant to relieve pain, boost performance and aid in recovery. However, most sports massages don’t come cheap, and their effectiveness remains dubious at best.
So are they worth it? Here, we’ll outline some of the touted benefits of sports massages, as well as some of the exaggerated claims and drawbacks.
Increases Blood Flow
The main benefit with any kind of massage is the fact that it assists with blood flow. Greater blood flow can mean a faster recovery, especially if you’ve over-trained or strained your muscles. That’s because increased blood flow means a greater supply of nutrients and oxygen is getting to your muscles, promoting a faster repair process. There have been several studies suggesting that sports massages can indeed help increase blood flow and improve muscle soreness, though the extent to which it can make a significant difference in pain reduction is hard to measure.
For runners, they are often told that the reason they have such soreness after running or jogging is because of lactic acid buildup in their joints and muscles. Not only does the sports massage increase blood flow, but proponents will tell you that it also helps to remove “metabolic waste” built up inside your muscles and joints. Through various massage techniques, these chemicals and compounds are pushed out into the blood system or the lymph system where they are more readily disposed of, which aids in recuperation and decreases the amount of aches and pains that a person may have. Lymphatic drainage massages techniques have also been proven useful when working with clients who have sports injuries.
No matter what kind of exercise you are doing, you are likely going to face some aches and pains as a result. A sports massage can do wonders for providing some gentle, immediate relief, which is why it’s quite common for athletes to come right off the court, track or field, and go straight to their trainer for a massage.
Can Help You Prepare For The Main Event
One thing that is often forgotten about sports massages is that they can be quite beneficial before a physical event or competition, too. Once again, if you are an avid runner, you might have seen massages offered before a race as well. By helping to loosen and warm up the muscles, the idea is that a pre-workout massage can help you compete at top efficiency, while reducing the risk of injury. You don’t need a massage for this though; a five to 10-minute simple warm-up routine that includes dynamic stretches will get the job done nicely.
May Prevent Future Muscle Soreness
Typically, delayed onset muscle soreness occurs a few days after a strenuous workout. Massages can help your muscles relax and reduce tension, which means you may feel less sore if you’ve had a massage.
While sports massages undoubtedly feel awesome, they aren’t a miracle cure. Sure, a massage may prevent some muscle soreness, can increase blood flow and make you feel super relaxed overall — but if you’ve injured yourself or over-trained, it won’t magically fix any of your problems.
And for many people, the cost of a sports massage, which can range anywhere from $50 to $250 CAN, depending on the length and type, outweighs the minimal benefits it provides.
In the short-term, a massage can help you feel better and offer some much-needed relief. But if you’re looking for a long-term solution that’s easy on your wallet, you may want to consider foam rolling or cross-training with yoga, and save the sports massages for a rare post-run treat.