The benefits (and disappointments) of massage


foot-massageGo for a massage! Many times we have heard these words as advice after an intense training program or competitive event.

This month, in the “Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise” we are educated differently about the benefits of massage and muscle recovery.

This study tested the hypothesis that sports massage aids muscle recovery from exercise by increasing blood flow to muscles. Increased blood flow should help to remove the build up of lactic acid, which is stored in the muscles.

Twelve individuals where recruited and tested. Two minutes of strenuous isometric exercise with the forearms were performed to elevate the lactic acid in these muscles. Right after the volunteers exhausted their arm muscles, they either lay and relaxed or received a massage by a certified sports massage therapist.

After measuring lactic acid between the two groups, it turns out that massage did not increase blood flow to the muscle to help to transport lactic acid out of the tissue. Rather, it caused the opposite effect: To cut off blood flow to the recovering muscles.

Active recovery, continuous movement, revealed that slight muscle activation compresses blood flow as well, however, significantly less than during a massage.

Blood flow is necessary to remove built up lactic acid in muscles. That might be the case, as the New York Times reports in their review “Does Massage Help after Exercise?” that looked at a study of 2000 boxers. The athletes from this study “felt more recovered.”

When doing your regular exercise, or starting a weight loss program, or dealing with structural issues such as back or knee problems, do not give up massage therapy. There are benefits to massage that this study did not look at, such as: helping to break up muscle clusters or relaxing tight muscle groups to bring the body into balance and relieve structural pain.

My advice: If you are sore after a workout program, be active the following day again to increase blood flow and help to transport waste out of the muscles. But you should never workout to a point of soreness that means you cannot move the following day.

A properly designed program will help you to avoid extreme soreness, and help you to continue to meet your goal, whether it’s exercise, weight loss or rehabilitation.

Remember, your goal is to continue moving and not to stop and celebrate the pain. The saying, “No pain no gain” is not just stupid, it is dangerous.

Stay focused,


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Categories : Exercise

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