Sports Massage- A Bad Experience

I've had deep tissue massage in the past and went to the same place a couple of weeks ago for a massage prior to the Marathon of the North.


The experience was terrible, masseuse was late and what followed lead me to me pulling out of the marathon through injury that I feel was sustained if not made worse by the trip to the clinic.

I've never reacted in this way to a massage in the past, obivously the clinic have not said sorry but did offer a refund for the poor service.

Has anyone else had a bad experience such as this?

For future marathons what would people suggest as a reasonable timescale for a massage prior to the run?



  • Like you Paul, I had a deep tissue massage 2 weeks before the GNR last year. I am convinced this session caused me to have to withdraw from the race.

    The deep massage was for ITB problems. It was incredibly painful. The physio did it and used his hands and elbows. About 24hrs later I came out in HUGE bruises- so much so, that I went back to the clinic to check this was "normal". I was told "yes"- that some people do bruise. I have never had such a painful massage before. The bruising was very painful. Advice from Physio was to run the GNR- as I wouldn't do myself any damage. I decided I did not want to run 13.1m and be able to "feel" every stride.

    Now, I am avoiding any deep tissue massages leading up to an event

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    My experience of sports massage is a bit different, and much more positive. In response to the last question in the OP I had a massage 10 days before VLM and that was fine (and would have done it the Monday before if I hadn't been able to get the earlier appointment).

    BUT: I'd been having reasonably regular massage (every 2 to 3 weeks) in the run-up to the race so I was used to it and knew how long it takes me to recover. And also I always have the same masseur, someone I know and trust. I think the main thing to avoid is trying anything new close to the race unless you absolutely have to. Bambi, would you have been able to run with the ITB problems?

  • there seems to be  a mentality in some sports massage area that it has to hurt a lot or it is not doing the job......

    If when doing it it is so painful that you tense up then it will become counter productive,......

     bad brusiing does occur occassionally with people.....

  • My ITB problems were settling before the appt. It was a chronic condition I can't say for sure that I'd have been able to run.

  • I used to have fairly regular sports massages and the therapist , who is also a qualified osteopath so knows her stuff, would make sure she did not go in  too deep in any session a week before an event.

  • Two possible mistakes in my opinion although I'm not an expert:

    1) The problem was too major to be fixed in one session.  The runner should have got treatment earlier before the problem got to the stage that it did.  The physio then tried to perform a miracle and get someone race fit who probably shouldn't have been running anyway.

    Possible causes:

    a) Runner was trying to save money by not getting treatment sooner
    b) Runner is fairly new to running and hasn't learnt to listen to their body and cannot yet tell when a niggle can be left and when it should be treated
    c) Runner put a lot of pressure on the physio to fix the problem in one session and the physio responded to this by using a deeper treatment than he should have - Runner shouldn't have put the pressure on and physio should have known better than to allow himself to respond to that pressure


    2) The physio was a bad egg (probably either inexperienced or arogant).  A good physio should listen to their client and if there is a race coming up then they should perform a lighter treatment.  If a lighter treatment won't solve the problem then the runner should have been advised not to run.  Whether the runner choses to listen to that advice is outside the physio's control.  A deeper treatment may have been the most approriate course of action if the runner wasn't running their 'A' race that weekend


    Other possible lessons to take away from this:

    • Runners need to look after their bodies.  Stretching, mobility exercises, strengthening exercises etc are the most important things you can do to look after yourself.  If you listen to your body properly then you should rarely need to visit a physio.  Most experienced runners will tell you that the primary reason for visiting a physio is because they tried to push their bodies too far and ignored the warning signs
    • You can treat a lot of injuries and niggles yourself through use of the foam roller or self massage.  Take rest days when you need to and treat at the first signs of a problem.  Get this right and you can avoid the physio
    • Some physios are better than others.  If you can, find one who does a sport themselves as they will have the same mentality as you and are more likely to be honest about what you are capable of.  My physio always gave me two options:  Her recommended way of getting me back to running as soon as possible, and the route I could take if I was adament that I was racing that weekend.  It was then up to me which treatment she did and it was my own fault if I chose the option that put me back a few weeks in the long term.

    In all of the above I have used the term physio to mean a physio treatment or a sports massage.

    You can bruise after treatment but it shouldn't be the norm.  Reasons for bruising:

    • Serious injury that will get slightly worse before getting better.  These are the sort of injuries where you can't put any weight on a leg for example.  You know you have them and there is no way you can pretend that it is a niggle.  Bruising should only occur on the first treatment
    • Runner tends to bruise easily at the best of times.  If you know this to be the case with you then tell the physio as they may chose a different form of treatment.  Physios don't intend to bruise you as it is often counter productive to the long term healing process.
    • Runner has an extremely high pain threshold (this is my problem) and can tolerate a very deep massage without flinching or tensing up.  Physio may not realise how deep they are going without feedback from the runner.
  • Did a physio do something terrible to you in a former  life DF3? You seem to have a bit of a grudge against the profession image

  • I'm in essay mode DF3.  Just updating my blog with the report of Friday's swim and possibly getting a bit carried away with it

  • I see I'm not the only one, I'll avoid the clinic in future

  • Oh I love my sports masseuse and i would recommend her to anyone, but she is there when I can't sort the problem out myself. She is part of the team that includes my coach, support crew and training partners.  I use all of them to get me race fit, but at the end of the day the responsibility for my fitness is down to me and I can't expect any of my team to make up for failings on my part.

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    SuperCaz - me too: my masseur has taught me loads of useful stuff. He always explains what's gone wrong if anything has (usually some sort of muscle tightness that could have been avoided with the right stretches, which he shows me), so I don't usually need him for the same problems again. I see it as a way of learning more about how to keep myself in good shape rather than a quick fix.

  • Mr PuffyMr Puffy ✭✭✭

    DF3 I take your point re the body fixing itself but speaking for myself I have had regular sports massages in the past because I've been training quite hard and it has been very beneficial. I went to a person I know and trust and it was fine. If you're actually "training" for an event, you might not have the time to just restimage


      the rule of thumb for me is to go to an older practitioner. Experience is very important, also a  guy with no mortgage and a good pension doesn't need to milk you like a newly qualified Joey in a big mult-practice does.

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    DF3, I've used the advice to pay more attention to my body and how it feels. I'm not convinced there could be a double blind scientific study for what happened to be wrong with me at any particular time, because the sample would always have just been me!

    But for example, when the masseur told me my left achilles pain was caused by tight glutes, he explained this by (a) pointing out that my achilles was not swollen and that manipulating it didn't hurt me, so that wasn't the source of the injury and (b) doing some really quite painful glute manipulations that hurt like hell on the side that was injured but not really at all on the other side. I was then able to run with no pain at all. And yes, it could have been a coincidence, but I had already tried icing, resting and stretching my calves (what google suggested) with no effect. Finally, because I am now more aware of the glute tightness issue, I pay more attention to it and now notice when it starts tightening up. And I've been taught more effective stretches to prevent the problem recurring.

    It doesn't seem that implausible to me that someone trained in anatomy with more knowledge of how different muscles affect each other than I have, and who has actually examined my body, would be able to work out what was wrong and what to do about it more effectively than me googling it.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    I'm with you on this one DF.

    I've only been to a physio three times. Twice in a week for a torn muscle in 1989 and for a tight anterior muscle in 1993.

    The last occasion was where the physio recommended the best course of action to avoid getting injured is to be fully hydrated at all times.

    The other thing he said was to avoid prodding and poking the sore areas. "it hurts because you're causing more damage, keep your hands off".

    I've had injuries since but none were of an overuse nature. 

    We have to temper training ambition with not over doing it. 

    Can't treat your aching complaining body as just another obstacle to overcome.

  • The internet is a fantastic source of information but the real benefit I get from seeing someone is from showing me how to do stretches properly and getting feedback on what I am doing right.

    For example, I've been swimming all my life.  A few years ago I did an event that challenged me and the following day my muscles were so sore that I couldn't do my bra up or put a seatbelt on in the car.  This is despite doing all the right training, having proper nutrition, doing my stretches and structured recovery

    Friday I did a tougher event but with preparation probably not quite as good as for the previous swim.  This time I ache a little but not enough to stop me doing anything.  The main difference between the two: I have been shown how the stretches I used to do were not providing me with any benefit because I didn't understand which muscles they were supposed to be working so was doing them wrong.  Some tiny tweaks from my masseuse and my stretches are now working for me.

    I know that isn't a double blind study either and I have only mentioned two events which on their own could be considered coincidence.  But I know what works for me.

    So my advice would be to use the internet but to supplement it with hands on practical advice from someone who knows what they are talking about.  It doesn't have to be a physio if you have access to a good coach or someone with real knowledge and experience

  • Interesting thread...

    Hard to find *quality* evidence based studies due to multiple variants. Sham massage vs sports? Double blinding isnt possible either. As soon as you put your hands on someone you're having an effect.. Be it good or bad. Placebo Nocebo. 

    I treat musculoskeletal injuries with massage, and other modalities depending on the injury. Soft tissue work i.e  myofascial release, deep tissue and dry needling in that order of combination seems the most effective on feedback from my patients. I have new people and regulars; if what I did was ineffective, and I don't give a stuff if its placebo as long as they improve, then I would have no repeat patients or recommendations. 

    Brusing only occurs if I do frictions as you have to press hard, and its a small area so just a fingerprint size bruise. I warn patients. If doing deep tissue I go to patient tolerance level and not beyond. Regular feedback from therapist and patient. Had a patient who went for a Tai massage, and the therapist sprung his rib! Check they're qualified to degree level.

    My experiences are *some* patients want a quick fix from me, with no input from themsleves.. not going to happen! They create the damage but wont listen to advice re cross training, rehab / stretches / strengthening to correct muscle imbalances etc, then whinge when their ITBS or muscle tear isnt mircaulously cured. I only treat 4 things: inflammation, inflexibility, imbalance, weakness.

    If you don't like the therapist, don't go back. Simple! I don't have that option - ethics means I have to treat nice people and eejits. Just don't come running to me when you've broken your leg! image

    *joins Caz in the essay writing*



  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    Not sure I can be bothered to have this argument any more, but it seems just as thick to assume that doing nothing is always best as it would be to assume that all interventions work.

  • So someone getting better isnt right.. irrespective of treatment? image

    Haven't had a cold in over 5 years but I'm not a believer in popping meds anyway, fluids and rest usually does the trick.

  • literatin wrote (see)

    Not sure I can be bothered to have this argument any more, but it seems just as thick to assume that doing nothing is always best as it would be to assume that all interventions work.


  • I had a calf problem for 2 weeks before my 1st marathon. I actively did lots to fix it including RICE, heat, stretching, massage ..... and nothing worked. I thought the only option was to do absolutely nothing, which is what I did until the day before the race. I was still in pain at the expo - so I wasn't even sure whether it was worth picking my number up.

    On the way out I saw massages were being charged at £10. I hoped on the couch, she lightly massaged the calf and said she wanted to try dry needling around the muscle spasm site. I looked at my wife as if to say "mumbo - jumbo nonsense".

    As it happens, it worked, and I was really grateful. Anecdotal - yes, scientific basis - no, placebo effect - who cares. Best £10 I ever spent.

  • I'm also in the camp that if it is a placebo effect or not then I don't care as long as I can run. spent a pile of money on Adidas there was no proof that they would enable you to run faster or further than a pair of black plimsoles from poundland....

    yet you bought them and wore them........and of course it was not them that caused you an injury as they are the best thing since sliced bread and are definitely not anything at all to do with Mr Placebo

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭
    David Falconer 3 wrote (see)

    So your solution is doing something ..... anything .... is better than nothing?


    No, all I said was that 'doing nothing' is not always the best option out of the many possible courses of action you could take, which is the line you usually try to push.

    I don't have ITBS, so I don't think I will need to try the hopping just yet. I would say though that out of our sample of 2, I managed to get over my injuries quicker and get more marathon training in than you did. Obviously it's not scientific because other variables (age, sex, aptitude) are not equal, but so far my approach seems better than yours. I will draw up my conclusions and suggestions for further study after your race on Sunday. image

  • David Falconer 3 wrote (see)

    So what youre saying is that for 2 weeks you were in pain, you hopped on this couch, she did whatever she did and your calf was absolutely fine? No pain whatsoever, all back to normal?

    Or was it still  a bit sore, but not quite as sore as you maybe thought, and then on race day you managed to get through it?

    Because if it was the latter, which I strongly suspect it was, then I think you'll find the impending date of the marathon helped you convince yourself you werent as injured as you thought.

    Verdict: Placebo effect.


    In my case I got flexibility back in the ankle without having shooting calf pains - this was not a chronic condition like ITBS which tends to be from functional weaknesses as I'm sure Mr Google told you.image This was an acute injury - i.e. muscle spasm.

    The dry needling released the muscle  - nothing more or less than that - no big wonder, just a technique that helped to release the muscle spasm. It would have probable fixed itself in 5 or 6 days and I would have been wealthier to the tune of £10.

    I frequently dose up on Mr Placebo, and often consult Mrs Google. Occassionally when I had functional issues with my biomechanics resulting in ITBS I even saw Messrs Physio and Masseure who sorted me out with a strengthing program to get rid of the little bugger.

Sign In or Register to comment.