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Massage, or not

Flexibility was never one of my strong points.  Here I'm
comparing capabilities with friend, Bill, after a long run.
An accomplished marathoner, and fellow Trotter, Melanie, has suggested on several occasions that massage might help my arch problem.  She has been suffering from a similar injury and found that deep massage of the arch has made a difference.

I have had mixed experiences with massages over the course of my running career.  The earliest experience I can remember was a positive one.  I had developed a painful knee while living and running in London in the mid-70s and a visit to Ted Chapple (sp?), a well-known sports masseur, was recommended.  He manipulated the knee, and had me adopt various positions to test the pain levels.  He then asked whether I had been doing any slow running. In fact, I had been encouraging my then wife, Barb, to tackle some longer distances in her running and we had been jogging up to 25km together on some evenings.  Ted worked on my quadriceps for a while and suggested I increase the pace of my running.  I did, and the pain disappeared almost immediately and didn't come back.

My next experience of massage was less positive.  I had been trying to manage chronic Achilles tendon pain in my left heel and was getting desperate.  Friends suggested I make an appointment with a well-known sports masseur, which I did.  It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  The masseur located the most painful spot on my heel and proceeded to vigorously massage it with his thumbs and fingers, telling me that he had discovered a knot which needed to be broken down.  I almost had tears in my eyes by the time he finished and I later learned that there was a calcification on my heel which was rubbing on the tendon, inflaming it and the bursa.  The masseur had been pressing on the calcification, and there's little doubt in my mind that he made the injury worse rather than better.  I later heard that the same masseur had been working hard on the site of another runner's injury, causing him excruciating pain.  The runner begged him several times to stop, which he didn't, and the runner finally sat up and punched the masseur!

Since that time, I have tended to avoid therapeutic massage unless recommended by a doctor.  My view is that any injury that appears to be chronic or structural needs to be assessed by a doctor, probably with the use of appropriate scans, before enlisting the aid of other health professionals.  This is the course I have followed with injuries over many years.  I have benefited from the services of masseurs on a number of occasions, but rarely make them my first port of call for injuries.

On the other hand, I don't have any problem with massages designed to relax muscles and tendons as part of a training program or post-race recovery.  It's more the use of massage to promote the repair of specific injuries that I avoid without first getting a doctor's recommendation.  This is just my personal opinion, and I have many athlete friends who happily rely on masseurs or physiotherapists for the treatment of injuries and tightness and are pleased with the results.

I walked about 3km this morning, wearing my new insoles, and did feel less discomfort and a little more positive that I could continue walking for exercise while waiting for the injury to heal.

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