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Complementary Therapies For Runners

Aug 21, 2018 | Lifestyle, Running, Running Advice, Wellness | 4 comments

complementary therapies for runners

Deena Kastor explained in her book that our running can be affected by outside stresses; financial, personal, can affect our physical and mental fitness. She explains that tension, caused by relationships and financial stress can manifest itself in physical and mental illnesses.

We all have stresses in our lives, whatever that may be but doing our best to foster good, meaningful relationships, live within our means (yes Mum, I’m working on this!!) and do our best to deal with outside tension can improve our wellbeing.

It had me thinking about what we do for our running (and obviously health and wellbeing!). We run to lower stress, but could our stress impact our ability to run fast. To run long. To recover adequately.

We stretch to improve our muscles but actually stretching, yoga, Pilates and barre are beneficial for our mental health too. They help lower stress, improve mindfulness and help with the body’s tension and imbalances.

However, perhaps we should be doing more to help align our body and mind. Balancing out the stress we put on the body with our running and training, and investing in a more holistic approach to recovery. That could be injury prevention, injury treatment or addressing our energy and overall whole body alignment.

complementary therapies for runners

Complementary Treatments for Runners

Acupuncture – I’ve been using acupuncture and dry needling to help with my shin splints and knee pain for years. In fact, it’s been the one thing, combined with massage and stretching that has helped with shin pain, and the treatment I go back to anytime I feel a niggle.

And I’m definitely not the only one. Research into acupuncture has show that it can help regulate inflammation and immunity. Insertion of needles into specific motor points and acupuncture points can release tight segments of myofascial tissues – these are the membranes that surround your muscles and connect them. It has also been documented that acupuncture can improve blood circulation which can increase healing, especially in tendons and ligaments.

Oh, and the added bonus of improving sleep is music to my ears.

The main difference between dry needling and acupuncture is that in acupuncture, the primary purpose is to alter the flow of Qi (energy) along traditional Chinese meridians, while dry needling follows evidence-based guidelines and needles are inserted into recommended point locations to reduce/alleviate pain.

Dry needling is designed to address neuromuscular conditions, reduce pain and improve range of motion. It helps reduce muscle tension, control pain and normalize motor dysfunctions during training or rehab.

Salt therapy – I know a lot of us will have used Epsom salts in our post-run recovery. But my trip to Garden of the Gods club was my first experience of a salt room. Dry salt therapy (halotherapy) is supposed to alleviate respiratory and skin conditions, with the micro particles helping to improve skin, sleep and physical fitness, endurance and overall wellness. Apparently the salt helps widen the airways and loosens mucus, inflammation reduced with the negative ions from the Himalayan salt helping to balance the positive ions in our body from electronic items we use daily.

The treatment has been used in Eastern Europe for years, although very few studies have been done on the medical benefits, and most studies are anecdotal.

complementary therapies for runners

Energy Therapy – I also tried this for the first time at Garden of the Gods Club. According to the therapist, healing touch or energy therapy that uses a medical technique of biofield therapy that facilitates healing and relaxation in the body, mind and spirit. Studies have shown that is facilitates relaxation and healing.

I was given crystals to hold during my therapy, and my chakras were cleansed, and blockages (apparently I had 3) were opened. I was given advice to use rose quartz and amethyst crystals, practice meditation and to work on my giving/loving and receiving chakras. Also apparently, my sacral chakra was very blocked…

Amanda on the other hand was told she was one of the rare people that had zero blocked chakras! I’m quite a skeptic around these sorts of things if I’m totally honest, however I know a lot of people love using crystals, and hey it can’t hurt, so you may see some next to my bed in our new house!

Massage – I’m not sure this counts as complementary therapy, but am including it here as SO many of us runners use it. Sports masseurs massage, knead, pummel, scrape and stroke our muscles and fascia to reduce muscle tension, improve blood flow and reduce tightness. It can promote flexibility and healing, as well as preventing injuries.

complementary therapies for runners

Reiki – is a therapy that aims to aid the body’s natural healing process, focusing on balancing and healing the life force energy that flows through us. Apparently, when this force is low, we’er more likely to get ill or injured. Reiki heals us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Although I don’t have any firsthand experience with Reiki, runners have used it to prevent and treat injuries, strengthen the bodies natural healing abilities, help you relax before a big race and promote a mind/body connection. You won’t be massaged or manipulated, instead your body will be ‘treated’ fully clothed as you lie or sit, with the therapist gently laying their hands on specific parts or the body or near the body.

Chiropractic treatment – this focuses on diagnosis. treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. There’s a particular focus on the spine and nervous system, and works on back, shoulder, neck and joint pain. The chiropractor uses their hands to apply force to muscles, bones and joints, manipulating the spine, soft tissue and joints.

As runners we can suffer from lower back pain, hunched shoulders (I mean, with the amount of time we spend at computers and hunched over phones these days, who doesn’t), hips that are out of alignment, and general imbalances. Chiropractor can work to alleviate and realign your body. I used to go to help with my headaches, and it really did help for a while (but was pretty expensive).

Osteopathy – the difference between chiropractic care and osteopathy? There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut definition to be honest. Apparently, osteopaths look more at muscles and joint mobility to improve flexibility and reduce pain. Flexibility – you know that thing a lot of runners lose when they start upping their mileage…

Rather than crunching bones, osteopaths look at the locomotion of the body’, working on the soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments), stretching and manipulating muscles and joints to help ease pain and eliminate imbalances.

complementary treatments for runners

Reflexology – Of the treatments I haven’t tried,  reflexology is top of my list of therapies to try. You feet are key to running, and they can often get beaten up, tight and tense. The foot contains 7800 nerves, each one stimulating an area of the body.  Reflexology can help balance and relax the body’s systems by applying pressure to the reflex points across the feet and hands. Not only are you addressing the feet, but the body as a whole.

Reflexology can help manage pain, accelerate healing and promote equilibrium within the body. According to Chinese medicine, energy is constantly flowing through the feet and hands, and when one of these zones gets blocked, pain and disease can manifest. Treatment enhances the flow of energy, encouraging the body to heal itself and for the body systems to work again in unison. Not only that, but it is supposed to directly target niggles in the feet… (just thinking about this makes me feel relaxed…but I’m one of those weird people who likes having their feet massaged!)

I would love to know which complementary treatments you’ve tired, love/have regularly? Or any that haven’t worked for you? 


  1. Kate

    Sleep – one of the best forms of recovery.

  2. georgepdp

    Absolutely! Stress seems to be everywhere these days —- even with using running to relieve. I think all the above are great options. One of the things I love about running is that you can do anywhere – the barriers to entry is so slow. All you need is a pair of shoes. In that spirit, I think there are a few complementary treatments to add that are also lower barrier to entry: 1) Meditation, 2) Yoga/stretching (you mention) and 3) Reading (not iPhone News! Or Facebook, but a Book). These are good, low time cost activities, to add when you can’t escape to see a professional for the better options you outline above. Great article! -George (

  3. olivia stewart

    In that spirit, I think there are a few complementary treatments to add that are also lower barrier to entry yoga reading news books. A Great article and thanks for shearing information.

  4. Holly Martin

    Pilates and Yoga are my go to options on the days when I’m not running. Apart from this I also love reading, so during my rest days I’m sipping on my favourite Hazelnut latte accompanied by an interesting book.


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