You couldn’t have failed to notice how every good gym out there these days has a massage section. You’re supposed to go into the steam room, come out all nice and soft, and get a good therapeutic massage to go with your workout. The belief is that all the expert muscle kneading is going to speed up circulation to all the tired out muscles filled with lactic acid that came from your workout. Is that for real though? Does the therapeutic massage really help with blood flow to the muscles and lactic acid relief?
There’s been a study done at Queens University in Ontario, Canada. They took up a dozen regular healthy people who were used to a good amount of exercise. They had them exercise a particular part of their body, their forearm, with a hand grip device for instance, until they were completely tired out. It didn’t take them that long either – a couple of minutes was all it took for them to get completely pooped out. They had blood tests done on their forearm muscles for lactic acid, and they were hooked up to heartrate machines. Now all of us believe that lactic acid buildup in the muscles is a bad thing; that it gets us all sore and tired. All of us that is, except medical experts. Physiological doctors are somewhat intolerant of this view. There have been studies one on top of the other that have tried to prove that lactic acid does get you all tired out; but have all come out negative. All they’ve succeeded in showing is that lactic acid is great – it is nutrition for your muscles. The whole lactic acid rumor is what is behind all the therapeutic massage facilities at gyms all around.
After the strongmen had tired their arms out, they were allowed to rest. Actually, only four of them were allowed that. Another four were asked to cool down with a low-level round of exercise once every few minutes, and the rest of them were given some pretty wonderful therapeutic massage; and all the while, all kinds of machines measured the lactic acid, the blood flow and everything else in their muscles. So what did they find out? They found out that each time the masseur kneaded and stroked the muscles, all he succeeded in doing was cutting off blood supply all over the muscle for a second. It turned out that the claim that masseurs make that what they do actually increases blood flow, was actually wrong. They do succeed in cutting it off from time to time though. They found out that the boys who were recovering with a little bit of cool-down exercise in between, also experienced slower blood flow in their muscles. The subjects who just lay there stock-still having nothing better to do were the ones who achieved the most blood flow.
So what this proves is that therapeutic massage doesn’t remove lactic acid well at all, or even promotes good circulation. But when you get massages, you lower your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. And of course, therapeutic massages make you feel great about yourself. That should be reason enough.