Massage Therapy for Runners

Sports massage is a great addition to your training schedule.

Massage for runners helps by relieving muscle pain, speeding recovery, increase flexibility and prevent injury from regular running. If you have an event scheduled you want to also be scheduling sports massages to speed recovery and improve performance!

sports massage

As a regular runner for years and find that massage particularly on my IT Band allows me to run without knee pain. The best part of getting sports massage on my legs is the next day going for a run and my legs feel so much lighter and move so much easier almost as if I am floating through the run, just delightful!

The exciting news is how beneficial massage is for your recovery:

Studies published in the Journal of Athletic Training and the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that massage after exercise reduced the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—that is, the stiff feeling you get a day or two after your long runs where it hurts to sit down.

Other research suggests that it improves immune function and reduces inflammation. Emory University researcher Mark Rapaport, M.D., found that just one massage treatment resulted in an increased number of several types of lymphocytes (white blood cells that play a key role in fighting infection) while also decreasing levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone” linked to chronic inflammation). “More research is needed, but it’s reasonable to think that massage could help runners taxed from exertion,” Rapaport says. It may also help curb chronic diseases. “We know that systemic inflammation is associated with a lot of deleterious effects, such as heart attack and stroke, and that it predisposes people to cancers,” he says.

Crane’s research, published in Science Translational Medicine, found less inflammation in massaged limbs—and 30 percent more of a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria (the “engines” that turn a cell’s food into energy and facilitate its repair). “What we saw suggests that massage could let runners tolerate more training, and harder training, because it would improve their recovery and speed up their ability to go hard two days later,” he says.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association; Sports massage can be used to improve athletic performance, speed recovery, and can be utilized by all individuals who participate in any athletic and/or exercise program to help improve conditioning and maintain peak performance.

Research has shown that in relation to exercise and athletic participation massage can:*

  • Reduce muscle tension4, 18, 19
  • Help athletes monitor muscle tone4, 19
  • Promote relaxation4, 18, 19
  • Reduce muscle hypertonicity4, 18, 19
  • Increase range of motion4, 14, 18, 19
  • Improve soft tissue function4, 18
  • Support recovery from the transient immunosuppression state6
  • Support the recovery of heart rate variability and diastolic blood pressure after high-intensity exercise.7
  • Decrease muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise8, 18, 19
  • Improve exercise performance8, 9, 18, 19
  • Decrease delayed onset muscle soreness10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
  • Be the most efficient intervention for maintaining maximal performance time in subsequent exercise tests when combined with active recovery from maximal exercise12
  • Reduce serum creatine kinase post exercise13
  • Reduce swelling17, 19
  • Reduce breathing pattern disorders18
  • Enhance athletic performance4, 18, 19
  • May help prevent injuries when massage is received regularly18, 19


Individuals who participate in exercise and athletic programs who seek enhanced performance, improved conditioning, faster recovery, injury prevention, and assistance in maintaining peak fitness can benefit from massage therapy given by professional massage therapists working within their scope of practice. At Massage Works we like to see our runners once a week during heavy training and mile building and then 2 or 3 days prior to a running event or a day or two after to speed recovery. The best thing to be mindful of is to take care of your body before you start having any pain. The most dangerous phrase is “Maybe it will go away” especially when training!