Hello Readers, Sean Ford Cannon here to talk to you about Massage Therapy (MT). I have had the pleasure of working with runners ranging in experience from recreational to varsity-level athletes, as well as some at the National level. Being a runner myself, I take pride in helping runners get back to the start line and ideally across the finish line(s).
So firstly, what is Sport Massage? It is simply the manipulation of soft tissue such as muscle to facilitate ease of movement and assist in one’s training regiment. To help you in your training, your Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) should ideally have a good grasp of your sport and the demands required of it. If your muscles or joints are too tight or limited, there is a chance that other parts of the body are being asked to work harder or move in a way that’s less efficient for your goal.
Realistically, your massage may at times provoke some tenderness, but it should not feel like we are trying to extract government secrets in a spy movie. Let’s abandon the notion of “No Pain, No Gain” as absolute permission to cause discomfort, but instead, make sure you are informed when it may be less pleasant and understand why. This is part of your informed consent, and you absolutely have the right to ask us to ease it up.
Part of knowing what it does also comes with knowing what it doesn’t do, so let’s talk about the myths around massage therapy. MT does not flush toxins from the body like some magic squeegee. Previous reports of lactic acid being assisted by massage was debunked in 2010 by a Study at Queen’s university. Subsequent studies actually showed that active recovery following high intensity exercise to have a higher rate of blood lactate removal than passive recovery. So perhaps taking a light jog after the event to your massage appointment is the best post-event strategy!
When to use MT? If you’re noticing that you’re feeling more fatigued or heavy in the legs, you may benefit from some work to get the muscles moving more efficiently, or even to help facilitate your rest and recovery. Secondarily, if you start to notice some new pain that occurs during your training that doesn’t seem to resolve with a day or two of rest, that may also indicate that you should make an appointment with your healthcare team (be it physio, massage or chiro). A recent systematic review in 2018 showed massage therapy to be the most effective method for reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and perceived fatigue
Lastly, when do we book in? For anyone booking in for their first time, I like to ask when was their last race and their next race is. It’s a great thing to get that massage after a strenuous race or training session (think long runs, tempos, hill repeats), but conversely, I like 2-3 days space between a sports massage and a race just to allow the body time to rest, recover and feel ready to go.
In closing, I hope your takeaways are that we want to be a part of your training program, and want you to feel informed and okay with asking training-related questions throughout the therapeutic relationship with your RMT.
Sean Ford Cannon is a Registered Massage Therapist in Vancouver, British Columbia, and currently working towards his National Sports Massage Therapist Certification (CSMTA CC). He is an avid runner, having completed over 10 half marathons in the last 4 years, and his first full marathon in 2018. You can probably find him currently training for the 2019 Chicago Marathon. He would love to complete the 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) one day.
 Wiltshire, EV et al. Massage impairs postexercise muscle bloodflow and “lactic acid”removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010 Jun;42(6):1062-71
 Menzies, C et al. Blood lactate clearance during active recovery after an intense running bout depends on the intensity of the active recovery. J Sports Sci. 2010. Jul;28(9):975-82
 Dupuy, O et al. An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. 2018. Laboratoire MOVE (EA6314) Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Poitiers, Poitiers, France.