Massage Therapy


Experience From - Larry Phillips, Jay Hodde, Karl King#1, Vida Morkunas, Terri, Karl King#2, Jay Hodde#2 , Karl King#3 , Peter Bakwin , Ray Krolewicz ,

Larry Phillips

I was wondering if anyone on the list had any information or experience with deep massage therapy.

Here's my story. I ran two marathons in October. Then 2 weeks alter I ran a 5 mile race in which I hurt my right thigh. I think maybe a strain. with less training I continue to race almost every other weekend which continue to make matters worse. Finally after running a five mile race on 12-8-96 it got to the point that I could no longer run at all due to the pain in my right thigh and now right knee. In hopes to be able to run a Fat Ass Fifty on January 4th.Which I help start and also help direct, I was willing to try anything. First I tried Chiropractor. Which I was not to please with. The chiropractor touched my spine with two fingers very lightly. I thought that if this was straightening my spine as soon as I got up it would go back to where it was . So I did not return to this guy. Later someone said I should try a classic chiropractor but that's another question. I finally decided to go to a Deep Massage Therapist.

This seemed to do the trick. On Wednesday of this week I seen him in the morning and by Thursday afternoon I was running albeit with some pain in knee but the pain in my thigh was mostly gone. It was a painful experience but that is what I felt I needed. Now here are my questions. When the therapist was doing his thing to my thighs I could actually feel the knots he was rubbing out of my right thigh which was a lot more knottier then my left. What caused this? Also the therapist told me to drink a lot of water that day to help get rid of the toxins that he just pushed and massage out of my thigh. What were these toxins and how do I prevent this from happening again? Finally is it a good idea to see a massage therapist regularity say once a month or so? Thanks and Happy Holidays. It great to be able to run again.

Jay Hodde

In response to Larry:

I would guess that the "knots" represent scar tissue and that the "rubbing out" was breaking these adhesions, making the muscle easier to move -- your less painful run reflects that, because you've increased your range of motion. . .

On the toxin thing: From an exercise physiology standpoint, the toxins mentioned are most likely lactic acid. Assuming this is the case (I don't know what else he would be referring to), you don't need to worry about. If indeed he was talking about lactic acid, he is a victim of misinformation. . . . recent studies have shown that lactic acid is quickly metabolized from the muscles within 15 minutes, and a cool-down period following exercise only slightly reduces this time period.

Lactic acid is a normal byproduct of muscle metabolism. Levels increase during exercise (in sprints, levels increase higher than in long distance running) and quickly return to resting levels following a workout.

Karl King#1

Larry asked about this and Jay responded.

After 8 years or so of regular massage, I'm a big fan of it. But rather than pay for a session many times per year, a running friend and I took classes at a local hospital to learn how to do simple massage.

Massage is more effective if one does it daily or after each hard run. Those "knots" which are either scar tissue or muscle fibers which are entangled get worked out in a few weeks and regular massage keeps them from returning.

A couple times a year I go to a professional who gets out the stuff I miss.

It is normal to get very thirsty during the massage because the manipulation of the muscle tissue allows for more water to fill the interstitial spaces. So have a big glass of water after a thorough session. The claim that "toxins" are being pushed out is in my opinion, fanciful justification.

What toxins? Why didn't the blood/liver clear them out naturally? I've never gotten convincing answers to such questions. It can't be lactic acid left over from previous runs. Jay's observation that the circulatory system clears lactic acid in a few minutes is correct. Ultra runners are better than sedentary people at processing lactate, so unless you just came in from a searing track workout, you don't have pockets of "toxic lactic acid" hanging around.

Vida Morkunas

I see a massage therapist every week, for 30 - 45 minutes. We have been working on my hams and calves, and now we are doing my back. I credit Sean Dawson from the UBC Massage Therapy Clinic for keeping me injury free during the last few months of marathon & ultra training. I am a real newbie at this - I started to run longer distances (greater than Half marathon) only in July and yet I feel fine. The twinges of pain that I felt for a week or two in my left ITB are gone, and there are no injuries in the making.

Last week I saw Sean for a pressure in the lower back - it appeared in the last loop of Sunmart 50k - and when he was massaging the medial lat muscle I could feel knots too. And OW was that painful. I think that a few weekly sessions spent massaging the back will rid me of these knots. And make me feel much better as a result.

Sean has given me a few stretches for the ITB, and now for the back. This is time well spent, in my case. I would recommend regular sessions with a sports massage specialist to all that are considering it.


Another thing to consider -- deep tissue massages release toxins which can circulate in the blood stream for up to 36 hours following. Use care with having a deep massage the day before a big race -- 3 days is ideal. Make sure you drink lots of water following all deep massages that way the toxins get peed out rather quickly. I have had mild low grade fevers + 24 mild flus from really good massages

Karl King#2

Terri wrote:

"deep tissue massages release toxins which can circulate in the blood stream for up to 36 hours following. "
What are these toxins? Can you provide a reputable reference which identifies the toxins and their effect on tissues?

I've heard this line from some massage therapists, and consider it to be total B.S. Not a single person has ever been able to come up with some sound science to validate the claim, or to identify the chemical nature of a "toxin".

I've enjoyed professional massage for over 10 years and have never had a toxic or negative reaction to a massage. Sure, it can break down some scar tissue and redistribute some internal fluids, but I don't believe that there are any "toxins" involved.

"Toxins" of the world unite, and show yourselves!

Jay Hodde#2

This seems to be a no brainer... Massage stimulates circulation, and circulation flushes waste from muscles while carrying nutrients necessary for rebuilding.
Maybe, but I wouldn't be so sure without providing some backup support. Can anyone provide some evidence to contradict the following abstracts?

From what follows, it appears that massage is no better than active recovery (which leads me to want to save my $$ for the next race).

"After supramaximal leg exercise, active recovery produced significant decreases in both absolute and relative measures of blood lactate concentration when compared with the sports massage and rest conditions. No significant difference was found between sports massage and rest for either absolute or relative changes in blood lactate concentration." Martin NA. J Athletic Training 1998;33:30-35.

"It is concluded from the study that the short term body massage is ineffective in enhancing the lactate removal and that an active type of recovery is the best modality for enhancing lactate removal after exercise." Gupta S. Int J Sports Med 1996;17:106-110. "No difference was found in the blood levels of the 'fatigue causing metabolites' during passive recovery (PR) and recovery with the MISPD (MR)." Zelikovski A. Br J Sports Med 1993;27:255-259.

"It was concluded that (a) massage following exercise did not remove lactate better than passive recovery in a supine position, and (b) massage following exercise did not remove lactate as well as cycling at 40 percent of VO2max." Dolgener FA. J Strength Cond Res 1993;7:159-162.

"Though all three conditions caused a decrease in blood lactate values the post treatment values were significantly lower in the massage and warm down conditions than for passive rest." Bale P. Physiotherapy in Sport 1991;13:4-7. [Jay adds: no difference between massage and warm down groups]

Karl King#3

Let's see, we've got:

In my experience, the last is the least effective for rapid recovery. Anything that improves circulation around the leg muscles will help more than straight rest.

I think that massage feels the best and is most relaxing, but unless you get it free of charge, it is relatively expensive compared to the actual benefits. Note that you can reach all of your feet and legs with your own hands, so you can massage yourself. It just isn't as relaxing as having somebody else do it for you, especially a professional.

Wading in cold water is pretty good, but not always practical.

My favorite is to walk until the legs loosen up a bit and then run easily for 3 miles. That gets the circulation up in the leg muscles and generally leaves them feeling much better after a good night's sleep compared to just sitting around.

If you like weight workouts, consider doing a significant upper body workout. It will provide some circulation and growth hormone which will help in leg muscle repair. After an ultra I'm tired, but usually find that my upper body is not that fatigued and can do a fair amount of work.

The best explanation that I've heard for delayed onset muscle soreness is that when muscle fibers are damaged, they leak hydroxy proline into the interstitial fluid where it diffuses into the local nerves, irritating them. As the muscles are repaired and the fluids exchanged in the sore areas, the hydroxy proline dissipates and the soreness subsides. If that's the mechanism, then there is likely to be no magic cure for DOMS. Time, good circulation, and good training beforehand will be your best Rx.

Peter Bakwin

I never had a professional massage in my life. This year my wife is enrolled in the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. She is focusing on (surprise!) sports and orthopedic massage. I get to be a guinea pig quite a bit -- and I have to say its great!

Massage can help your running and racing in a number of ways. I find it keeps my muscles and connective tissue loose and in alignment, my several chronic (low-grade) injury problems are generally better these days. Massage increases the blood flow to the muscles, improving recovery, which is important in daily life as well as after a race. I always feel especially peppy the day after a full massage. In my limited experience I would say that post-race massage has significantly reduced recovery time for me. Also, a relaxing massage the night before a race can really help you get to sleep, very good if you tend to toss & turn before races. A properly-trained massage person can assess your posture, etc, and help you correct biomechanical problems that can lead to injury or interfere with efficient running.

Other than massage, my favorite post-race (or long training run) recovery method has been:

  1. hydrate, consume a good amount of carbs and protein
  2. nap for 30-40 minutes with feet up Works great!

Ray Krolewicz

Yes a post race massage does help with recovery. One of my secrets in driving home from all these events over the years is that I massage my legs, both to help with recovery, and to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel. Of course eating right, rest, and running all help with recovery as well so there are many variables, but the races where I have had an actual massage after do seem to have had beneficial recovery as well in addition to the immediate gratification of the actual massage.