Tag Archives: sports massage

How Massage Therapy May Help Fight Fatigue and Promote Faster Recovery.


It has long been suggested that massage therapy is good for us and that it can reduce our fatigue and increase our energy. While massage does not directly increase energy, it does reduce fatigue and often decreases the symptoms that sap our energy, resulting in our feeling better. Massage therapy has been shown to increase circulation, reduce stress, pain and depression, improved sleep and our immunity – all of which make us feel better, more energized and less fatigued!

Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage

There are many different modalities of massage therapy but most are familiar with Swedish massage, which includes long, gliding strokes that improve circulation – and deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage uses techniques such as cross-fiber friction to break up adhesions in the muscles; slow, deep strokes and pin-and-stretch techniques to lengthen and stretch muscle fibers; along with ischemic compression on trigger points to release them.

Both of these styles of massage share the same benefits to muscle, as the differences lie in the degree to which they focus on each benefit. For example, Swedish offers greater stress and pain reduction and improved sleep, while deep tissue may do more to reduce pain and muscle tension. Most massage therapists will combine these two styles to maximize the therapeutic benefit for their client by doing Swedish massage in general and using deep tissue techniques on specific areas that need work.

Ischemic Compression

Another technique that has proved to be effective in aiding muscle recovery post-exercise is compression. While ischemic compression is technically what is used to release trigger points, it is done on a very small, point-specific scale intended to release the muscle by releasing the trigger point. Broad muscle ischemic compression applied to the whole muscle or muscle group soon after completion of exercise (after running or weightlifting) has been shown to improve and speed up recovery for further performance and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

Increase Energy By Increasing Muscle Recovery

Sports massage is essentially a collection of techniques proven to aid in the recovery of exhausted muscles, either to enable further performance or to reduce or prevent delayed onset soreness. Muscle will recover on its own as a natural process, so all we really need to do to assist this process is increase circulation, flushing out lactic acid and bringing in fresh oxygen rich blood. Swedish gliding strokes and broad muscle compression (think pumping action) all serve to increase circulation, thereby speeding the recovery of muscle tissue and performance. Research has confirmed that athletes who received massage post-exercise recovered faster and with less soreness.

Faster Muscle Recovery Equals Less Fatigue.

Increase Energy By Reducing Pain

Studies have shown that massage therapy can reduce pain and fatigue both from illness and muscle use. Studies in the clinical setting have shown that massage reduced pain levels and improved function by analyzing qualitative data. Overall pain was reduced significantly and improvements in emotional well-being, relaxation, and ability to sleep were all associated with the reduction in pain. We have all experienced pain that interrupts our ability to focus and even sleep, and can understand how this results in feeling exhausted by the end of the day.

By relieving pain, massage therapy relieves fatigue and indirectly improves our energy levels.

Increase Energy By Reducing Stress and Depression

Clinical trials have shown massage therapy to alleviate depressive symptoms in general and to alleviate depression in those with fibromyalgia. There is an overall statistically significant association between receiving massage therapy and improved levels of perceived stress and depression.

As general fatigue and malaise – as well as low energy – are all associated with both stress and depression, alleviating these symptoms through the use of massage therapy, in turn, increases energy in the recipient.

Increase Energy By Improving Sleep

While over one quarter of us suffer from the occasional bad night’s sleep, almost 10% of Americans experience chronic sleep loss, known as insomnia. As a critical function, sleep impacts our mood, our ability to function mentally and make decisions. Even the success of our social interactions are affected by our quality of sleep, all of which greatly impacts our overall feelings of well-being, our energy levels and the levels of fatigue we may experience.

Research has shown that massage therapy can improve sleep quality and duration in children, cancer patients and those suffering from fibromyalgia. And it can certainly aid healthy adults who are stressed out to get a decent night’s rest!

By reducing stress and pain levels and bringing the body into a state of relaxation, many people are able to finally reach a state of healing sleep, improving energy levels overall and reducing fatigue.

Massage therapy reduces the chronic symptoms of pain, depression and sleep deprivation that that sap our energy. Massage helps us to feel better and function more efficiently.


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Incorporating massage therapy into your training and/or competition schedule

Any discipline you participate in or compete in, whether it is Bodybuilding, Weightlifting or Marathoning  should be approached with a detailed training plan, divided into training periods, and rest periods (de-load), which we refer to as a periodized training plan.Deep Tissue and Sports Massage Toronto

If you were to look at a graph of this type of training it would look a bit like someone taking two or three steps forward and one step back. The step back is sometimes referred to as a ‘rest week’, ‘recovery week’ or a "de-load".  So with that being said, training intensity  will build and then it will decrease slightly for one week. During this time of  reduced activity/intensity your body is given the opportunity to repair itself, and  mentally recover from all that beautifully intense training that occurred, in the preceding weeks! This recovery week would  be an opportune time to pop in to see your regular massage therapist, for a few reasons:

1) You are training less that week and thus have more time to allocate to recovery activities

2)  You will not be trying to juggle your massage appointment around tougher, high intensity workouts

Massage to correct faulty mobility/biomechanical  patterns.

Massage performed with the goal of breaking down scar tissue and augmenting range of motion in the limbs, can be useful to correct faulty biomechanics patterns and mobility issues.  In these treatments,  modalities such as  Active Release Technique and  Fascial Stretching are utilized to removed and realign any restrictions that may be found in the tissue, often impeding performance, and often leading to injury. Such treatments can absolutely be included within the weeks of intense training, in a goal to help augment performance and/or prevent injury.

Is there a time when I should not get a massage during training?

It is  generally not a good idea to get a massage on the day you have a difficult training session or right before a competition.  If you often find yourself a little sore the day after a massage, keep that in mind as well, as you wouldn't want to impede your training progress, or competition performance on your big day! However, if you find yourself with some nagging aches and pains, it is indicated and recommended to take an appointment when you can get it, to make sure that this "little pain" you are experiencing, doesn't escalate into an injury needing a long recovery!  Remember: Injury prevention saves time and money ( and frustration, but that's an other story, for an other blog post!)

Should I get a massage before and/or after  my competition?

With respect to timing, here are a few guidelines

Your last massage appointment shouldn't be booked closer than two or three days before the event, to allow tissue to re-hydrate, and repair itself post-treatment

Your post event massage can be booked two or  three days after the event, to allow tissue to heal a little, before receiving treatment (otherwise, treatment may feel uncomfortable, so just be sure to communicate effectively with your therapist, with regards to your pain experience and threshold on that day).

The type of massage you receive before and after competition can vary depending on how you feel, and what your goals regarding treatment are.

Periodized training schedules will end with what is called a ‘taper’. This is a one to three week reduction in training volume leading up to competition to allow the body to be fully rested. The taper is as much an art as a science and different people react to it differently. If you find yourself tense, anxious or on edge during your taper then a full body swedish massage for relaxation can help take the edge off. If you are prone to pre-event nervousness and/or do not sleep well the night before competition then a relaxation massage 48 hours before an event can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Others find the reduced volume of the taper leaves them feeling heavy and sluggish. In this case a massage that utilizes faster rate techniques designed to stimulate muscles may reduce these feelings of fatigue.

The prevailing theory behind post-race massage used to be that it would aid lactic acid removal from muscles and therefore promote recovery and leave you feeling less stiff and sore. More current research suggests that lactic acid is not to blame for sore muscles and that immediate post exercise massage may actually delay blood flow to muscles and therefore delay lactic acid clearance. So feel free to skip the onsite massage offered at most events!

A few days after the event your muscles may still be tender and not up to being runnercompressed and pushed. Do not let this deter you from visiting a registered massage therapist. Massage is not always about direct pressure applied to muscle.  In the days following an event what often feels best is a facilitated stretching routine. This allows joints and muscles to be passively moved through all ranges of motion counteracting the stiffness that comes with repetitive motion. The rhythmic nature of this type of massage can also be very relaxing.

During your training, before your race, and after, a skilled massage therapist experienced in working with racing athletes can help her see you through every phase of your journey!

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Iliotibial band syndrome

Anatomy of ITB SyndromeIliotibial band syndrome

With the warmer weather finally upon us, our activity levels tend to be on the rise, which sometimes leads to a higher incidence in training injuries or repetitive strains. One of those injuries I have come across as of late is Iliotibial band syndrome.
Iliotibial band syndrome results in pain on the outside of the knee which is caused by friction of the iliotibial band on the side of the knee. It is also known as ITB syndrome or ITBFS and sometimes referred to as runners knee (I believe I have also heard it called jumper's knee as well, but do not quote me on this!).


Symptoms of ITB syndrome consist of pain on the outside of the knee, more specifically at or around the lateral epicondyle of the femur or bony bit on the outside of the knee.

It comes on at a certain time into a run and gradually gets worse until often the runner has to stop. After a period of rest the pain may go only to return when running starts again. The pain is normally aggravated by running, particularly downhill.
Pain may be felt when bending and straightening the knee which may be made worse by pressing in at the side of the knee over the sore part. There might be tightness in the iliotibial band which runs down the outside of the thigh.  Tender trigger points in the gluteal muscles or buttocks area may also be present.


Certain factors may make you more susceptible to developing runners knee or iliotibial band syndrome:

1)A naturally tight or wide IT band may make someone more susceptible to this injury.

2)Weak hip muscles, particularly the gluteus medusa  are also thought to be a significant factor.

3)Over pronation or poor foot biomechanics may increase the risk of injury. If the foot rolls in or flattens, the lower leg rotates and so does the knee increasing the chance of friction on the band. Other factors include leg length difference, running on hills or on cambered roads.


Below are  a number of treatment options for ITB friction syndrome.


Rest is important to allow the inflamed tendon to heal. Continuing to run with ITB syndrome will most likely make it worse. Initially complete rest is a good idea but later activities other than running which do not make the pain worse such as swimming or cycling should be done to maintain fitness.


Apply cold therapy or ice to reduce pain and inflammation. Ice should be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour until initial pain has gone then later 2 or 3 times a day and / or after exercise is a good idea to ensure the pain does not return. Once the inflammation has gone then potential causes must be addressed such as a tight ITB or the pain will most likely return.

Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises for the muscles on the outside of the hip in particular are important. The tensor fascia latae muscle is the muscle at the top of the IT band and if this is tight then it can cause the band to be tight increasing the friction on the side of the knee.
Foam roller exercises
Using a foam roller on the IT band and gluteal muscles can help stretch the iliotibial band and remove any tight knots or lumps in the tendon. therefore friction on the side of the knee. For more information on how to foam roll effectively and safely, please see Mistakes you may be making while foam rolling

Strengthening exercises

Improving the strength of the muscles on the outside of the hip which abduct the leg will help prevent the knee turning inwards when running or walking and therefore help reduce the friction on the ITB tendon at the knee. In particular strengthening exercises for the tensor fascia latae muscle and gluteus medius such as heel drops, clam exercise and hip abduction are important.

Sports massage

A professional therapist may perform sports massage to help relax and loosen the tissues and use myofascial release technique, such as Rolfing or fascial Stretch Therapy which have been shown to be highly effective.
A tight ITB can contribute to friction at the knee and sports massage is an excellent way of relieving the tension in the tendon.
The aim of sports massage is to release tension in the muscle and fascia and stimulate blood flow. Massage must not be performed during the acute stage of an injury - usually at least 48 hours after injury. For grade two and three strains, massage may not be suitable for over a week. This is because if there is still bleeding then heat and massage will increase bleeding, not stop it.

Training modification

Errors in training should be identified and corrected. These can include over training or increasing running mileage too quickly. As a general rule a runner should not increase mileage by more than 10% per week. Running across a slope or camber in the road for long periods or poor foot biomechanics should be considered. When training starts again avoid too much downhill running.
A rehabilitation strategy which includes stretches and exercises to strengthen the hip abductors is important.

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