Yesterday, I went to a certified massage therapist who has been recommended to me by numerous people who have had suffered from athletic induced pain. Since I had some time off for Winter Break, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to see her. Multiple friends claim her as a miracle worker. In addition to being a CMT, she also has a masters in exercise physiology and is quite knowledgable with athletic injuries.
The only drawback was the commute. The woman works out of her house about 2 hours away. I made a day of it for sure. I, initially, went to her to help relieve IT pain. What I walked (hobbled?) away with was so much more than relieved IT pain, but answers to a lingering question of what really was the culprit for repetitive pain.
Correct me if I am wrong, but before becoming a runner I looked forward to the soothing movement of a massage. Now, I go to a massage to give me a workout. I’ve specifically researched masseuses who specialize in sports/deep tissue, especially after races. I’ve always left feeling “so/so” with very little improvement or temporary relief. Feeling slightly dissatisfied, I thought that this lingering pain behind my right knee/calf/hamstring wouldn’t go away without stopping the running, strengthening my hips, or eventually seeing a physical therapist. All the time spent counteracting the running with core work was not spent in vain. In fact, I recommend it despite having an injury!! As we all know from my post yesterday, it has led to so much more than just balancing out my running. It is something I want to do! But…
I’m relieved and surprised at what the CMT found. She started working on my hips, moving down my hamstring and towards the trigger where I identified the location of the pain. She said “Yes, your hips are incredibly tight, but I don’t think that is the culprit for all your pain. They are compensating for what seems to be the bigger issue. You appeared to have torn a muscle at the upper part of your gastrocnemius (calf). It’s right next to a major nerve running down your leg. The tear has been replaced by scar tissue which is causing the pain against the nerve.When did you start experiencing pain??”
“A year ago, after a marathon.”
“That’s probably when it happened.”
She then continued to work on breaking up the scar tissue. I’ve never cried during a massage, but I was tearing and bracing the table as she worked that area. It seemed like she got that often, since she had tissues on hand. Sounds brutal, but if I wanted to find any relief, I had to breathe through it and let her do her job. Only a few times did I tell her to give me a second. Her hands felt like daggers! She then continued releasing the IT band, piriformis, hamstring and gluteal muscles. To give my pain tolerance a break, she used a cold laser on my calf to help regenerate the torn muscle at the cellular level by stimulating repair for about 10 minutes. As she held the laser against my leg, she told me testimonials of other clients that she has used the laser on and the results. She, then, proceeded to work on my lower back and then performed some active stretching techniques on my hip flexors and IT band.
Today, I am bruised on my calf and quite sore in my hamstrings, but am expected to feel MUCH better in another day and can get back to running a few days from now.
My description might seem less than desirable, but all the pain was very worth it. She wants me to return in a few weeks to work that area again. “It was quite a mess,” she says. I will give an update once I’m feeling a bit better.
Here are some tips on finding a massage therapist and the benefits of “tune ups”:
1. Research! Certain CMTs specialize in different techniques. If you are an athlete, finding a CMT who is familiar with athletic injuries is good. Googling sports massage in your area might be the best bet to start.
2. Ask around. If you know any other runners in your area, ask them if they see anyone and their reputation.
3. Ask around again. If your runner friends do not know anyone, try asking your doctor, physical therapist, or a personal trainer/instructor at a gym to see if they know anyone.
4. Relief. When we put continual stress on our bodies, we need something deeper than stretching and foam rolling can provide. They DEFINITELY are the go to before and after runs, but every few months putting a small amount of money aside for a massage especially after a race can help prevent injury (or relieve a lingering injury).
5. Ask questions. If you see a masseuse occasionally, ask your questions. When they are working on an area that is sore, ask them what muscle that is and specific stretches you can do at home to tame it until seeing them again. Describe to them what you do athletically/throughout your day at work and they might be able to describe activities to counteract it. For example, I stand all day at work while teaching. My lower back and neck take on the stress for that. She showed me some stretches to do nonchalantly during my school day. Also, for examples, I use my quadriceps, but my hamstrings need some work. As a result, the “balance” in my legs are thrown off and I asked her for some advice to hamstring work.
She sent me home with some bio freeze samples I’ve completely lucked out – this cost be less than $50. SO much cheaper than anyone I’ve seen in the past.
Do you currently see a CMT? What has been your experience?