When it comes to staying healthy, an endurance athlete will try just about anything that's legal to stay at the top of his or her game, especially if a potential injury is nagging or soreness and stiffness is slowing progress. Luckily, there are a number of alternative therapies that have proven to help many active folks. Next time you're in search of a new solution, consider calling up your local expert and subscribing to one of these approaches.
A favorite among elite runners, Graston Technique relies on small stainless steel instruments that are used for soft tissue mobilization. Using these tools as little detection devices, a practitioner can identify adhesions in the soft tissue, thereby pinpointing the areas where scar tissue needs to be broken down to restore function.
With six specially-contoured instruments to be used on corresponding parts of the body, the practitioner scans the soft tissue and then massages trouble spots. Depending on the particular case, working out these adhesions can mean reduced pain and better range of motion, which may lead to increased performance. Unless you have a sidelining injury, you should be able to continue training during the time you are receiving Graston treatments and many runners report rapid results after therapy.
Active Release Technique (ART)
Another soft tissue treatment, ART is unique for its movement-based approach. With the knowledge that scar tissue develops in the soft tissue over miles and training, ART restores motion and function to areas through manual manipulation.
For instance, if a runner is experiencing discomfort in one of his hamstrings, the practitioner might have the individual lay on the table while he manually searches for adhesions in the muscle. When he pinpoints an issue, the runner will move his leg slowly as if he was running, while the clinician works on breaking up the scar tissue. While this is often sought out when an athlete runs into an injury, it is best utilized on a regular basis as maintenance work when you're in the midst of heavy training.
You've probably seen Olympic athletes use the brightly-colored Kinesio tape on everything from shoulders to ankles. Relied upon by everyone from chiropractors to physical therapists to athletic trainers, Kinesio tape is a special type of adhesive tape that slightly lifts up the skin and underlying tissues over specific muscles to allow for better blood flow around those muscles. The idea behind this method of taping is that it improves muscle contractions, reduces pain, improves blood circulation, and restores range of motion.
While amateurs can attempt to do their own taping, it's generally thought to be most effective when applied by a certified practitioner. Since the approach requires not only knowing where to place the tape, but how to cut it in various patterns and shapes to be most effective, an expert will know how to best implement this method. While some athletes will rely on Kinesio tape for injuries, many will simply apply it when they are in need of relief from soreness and tightness during heavy training.