Monday, April 16, 2012

Running Ragged

Many runners wait until pain or discomfort has made their running difficult or impossible, visiting a physical therapist to rehab them back into their routine. Instead of waiting until after injury has occurred, sports massage is a preventive secret professional athletes have utilized on a regular basis for decades.
Sports massage relaxes the body, reduces pain, increases flexibility, relaxes the mind and speeds recovery enhancing your athletic performance. The enormous training loads elite runners maintain each week make massage a necessity at least once a week but frequently up to three times a week. 
Massage helps maintain muscles in their normal resting length while prolonging an athletic career. The more activity a muscle undergoes, the greater its tendency to contract in a resting position. Think of your hands and how they curl in resting position. These tight muscles are more prone to injury when the next vigorous workout arrives.
Massage increases blood flow and realigns muscle fibers while breaking up adhesions, which are formations of scar tissue made up of collagen that appear during the tissue healing process. By stimulating and then relaxing the system, massage also flushes toxins from these healing muscles, which speeds recovery with fewer aches. A relaxed muscle enjoys increased blood flow and greater range of motion.

Sports massage also helps to identify problem areas that are as yet not full-blown injuries. The role of a sports massage therapist is to locate and work on minor aggravations, in many cases, trouble spots you didn't even know you had. It is also effective in aiding the recovery from an injury by encouraging better kinesthetic awareness and prompting the body’s natural immune function.
For this reason, it is vital to make the distinction between ordinary massage and sports massage. While Swedish or other conventional massage techniques feel relaxing, they are generally not effective therapy for athletes. Sports massage goes deeper into the musculature, and is more intense than other types of massage. Knowing which sports effect which muscles, sports therapists are trained to find trigger points and adhesions.
When you go in for a sports massage, let the therapist know of old and new injuries. Fresh injuries require a lighter touch than chronic aches, which can benefit from more intense work and breaking up of adhesions. The therapist will then work on related areas of tightness or unbalance that may have contributed to or resulted from the original trauma or overuse. 
Not surprisingly, many runners require the most attention to be paid to their legs and gluteal muscles, but allow the therapist to provide tension relief throughout your body including your arms, head, neck and shoulders. These muscle systems are all interrelated and can contribute to problems in running form that lead to injury or discomfort.
These sessions can be intense but need not be painful. Work with the therapist to find a level of discomfort that is tolerable yet effective. If you're not used to sports massage, you should allow five days or even a week between the session and the next race or hard workout. Runners accustomed to the rigors of massage can leave three days for recovery before the event. Wait at least a day after your race--and up to a week after for marathons--before returning to the therapist. Again, this recommendation applies to deeper work as many marathons offer gentle, stroking massage immediately following the race.

The lowdown on muscle strains

Muscle strains happen when a muscle is pushed beyond it capacity and the muscle fibers start to tear. You will know it is a strain when lifting something, moving something or just moving the wrong way. It is that moment that you get when doing something where you can feel the immediate localized pain.

 People often confuse muscle strains and call them muscle sprains. Sprains happen to ligaments which connect bone to bone. When you sprain your ankle you are tearing the ligaments that hold the bones together and hold them in place while the muscles around them make the ankle and foot move.

 A muscle can be strained from asking it to do too much beyond what it is capable of. When you are doing something which takes the muscle beyond what it is able to do- the fibers have no choice but to tear. Having a muscle that is tight also increases your risk of straining a muscle as it has less range of motion to do what you are telling it to do.

 Muscle strains are often confused with the pain of having muscle knots which are also known as trigger points. A muscle strain will be something that happens and is accompanied with immediate pain. It isn't something that you just wake up with typically or that you get over a period of a few weeks. It will often be red and inflamed or puffy looking. It will feel weak to use or move.

The first thing to do when something like this happens is to apply ICE not heat as some like to do. Ice is necessary to relieve the inflammation.

Massage can help in the healing of strains by reducing the inflammation and helping with the scar tissue formation process by circulating fresh nutrients to the area. When a muscle is strained, the tearing of the fibers will need to heal back together. They will heal better when minimum pressure is applied to the fibers as they heal to reduce the buildup of scar tissue. If you have an old injury you will often feel this spot of scar tissue when the muscle gets tight or you are under a lot of stress.

 There are three grades of muscle strain: first degree or mild, second degree or moderate, and third degree or severe.

Level One- 1-50% tear of the fibers, can hold resistance, and may be painful, some swelling but little to no loss of function. Usually returns to normal activity quickly.

Level 2- 50-99% fiber tear, can't hold against resistance, may hold against gravity, pain, edema (retaining of fluids), swelling and muscle guarding.

Level 3 -100% fiber tear, usually heard snap at time of injury, no resistance possible, pain may be present at site, compensational pain present but can be minimal afterwards because of complete separation, Needs physicians attention immediately.

 Third-degree strains generally require surgical repair. In some instances, surgery is not performed because the muscle does not play a crucial role and the potential dangers of surgery outweigh the benefits. Ruptures to the rectus femoris are an example because the other three quadriceps muscles make up for the strength deficit caused by the strain.

Whitney Lowe, a teacher of orthopedic massage says this about muscle strains:

 The muscles most susceptible to strain injuries are multi-articulate muscles, which are those that  cross more than one joint. The more joints crossed by a muscle, the greater is their vulnerability for  strain injury.

 All involved joints cannot achieve full range of motion at the same time due to limited extensibility of  the muscle tendon unit. If the muscle is stretched across multiple joints at the same time, it's more  susceptible to tearing from excess tensile stress.

Getting regular massage can reduce excess tension that can create extra stress and an increased risk of straining a muscle. This can be helpful for weekend gardeners and hikers as well as professional and amateur athletes.