There’s more than one way to justify a massage. Many people look to massage to assist in muscle recovery after an intense workout.
Queen’s University associate professor Michael Tschakovsky, who works in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, decided to put the art of massage to the test.
The idea behind a post-workout massage is to enhance blood flow to tired muscles. This is thought to speed up the recovery process.
Until relatively recently, the average gym-goer has attributed muscle soreness to lactic acid. More research has shown that most lactic acid has actually been cleared from the muscles about an hour after a workout. It is, in fact, a source of fuel for muscles.
Those in the fitness world hail the benefits of various methods for removing lactic acid in order to speed up muscle recovery. During intense, anaerobic exercise, recovery periods are used to clear lactic acid. Massage has been considered another technique for removing any remaining lactic acid, thus reducing muscle fatigue and soreness.
Michael Tschakovsky conducted a study in which 12 healthy men exercised their forearm muscle to the point of muscle failure. The 12 young subjects performed this task by squeezing a specially designed handgrip of 40 percent of their maximal force for 2 minutes without stopping.
Lactic acid levels were measure through the use of a catheter inserted into the vein responsible for draining the worked muscle. Next, the subjects were divided into three groups for a 10-minute recovery period.
The first group engaged in passive recovery by simply lying still for 10 minutes. The second group intermittently squeezed a handgrip at 10 percent of their maximal force, thus completing an active recovery. The third group received a 10-minute massage by a certified sports massage therapist.
During this 10-minute recovery period, an ultrasound measured blood flow to the fatigued forearm muscle while lactic acid concentrations were monitored through the use of blood sample.
The results were shocking. The massage actually hindered lactic acid removal from the muscles by cutting off blood flow during each massage stroke. This resulted in less overall blood flow to the tired muscles.
The purpose of the study was to measure lactic acid removal immediately after exercising. Massage was shown to decrease lactic acid removal speed.
That being said, massage has extensive benefits, such as decreasing cortisol levels, a stress hormone that causes fat storage, while increasing endorphins that just make you feel happier.
Massage can also reduce blood pressure and strengthen your immune system. It enhances lymphatic drainage while promoting increased flexibility and range of motion.
So, go ahead and enjoy your post-workout massage.