Can massage help muscle recovery after workout?

Can massage help muscle recovery after workout?

Massages are thought to help recovery after working out by increasing blood flow and transport of vital building blocks to the exercised body parts (as well as removal of waste such as lactate). Because of this thought, many professional athletes get massages as part of their training regimens. A new report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that the scientific literature on this is surprisingly lacking. While the physical benefits of massage after a workout are uncertain, there may be psychological benefits which still make it worth it according to the article.

A recent study that was conducted on people who worked out and then got massages found that there was no change in lactate levels after the massage. Lactate is produced by the body’s anaerobic respiration process which is what cells use when we exercise and get low on oxygen. This is what brings part of the soreness that so many people feel after they exercise. It is known to cause much of the pain which is associated with soreness too.

While it looks like there may not be an impact on lactate levels, surveys of people who got the massages after their workouts found that their perception of recovery was improved. The finding is contentious with people not sure why it came out that way. It is possible that those who felt better did so because of the placebo effect, a well-known phenomenon in which the thought of getting something useful actually leads to physiological improvements. Others think that it may have to do with the timing of the massage after the workout. A 1994 study showed that the massage was not helpful in the recovery process when done right after working out, but if it was given 2-6 hours later, it significantly reduced soreness.

While it is still unknown and more research is needed, there isn’t much to support the ideas that massages actually hurt the recovery process. Given this and the relatively low cost of getting a massage, it is likely that many athletes will continue to try them just in case there is an impact (or if they believe in it, a placebo effect). Some contacted marathoners said they will still be continuing their previous regimens in light of the recent journal report and it is highly unlikely that professional athletes who used to get massages will now stop. It will be interesting to see where the scientific consensus on this one ends up as more data come out.

Image credit: giorgiorossi73

About Doug Powell

Doug Powell, LMT, is a licensed massage therapist in the state of Florida offering Swedish, deep tissue, sports and therapeutic massage therapy. He is a graduate of the Orlando Institute of Massage Therapy where he finished his studies at the top of his class. He has practiced professional massage therapy in Orlando since 1996 and is a member of the Massage Network and International Massage Association. If you suffer from chronic muscle tension, pain or persistent stress, discover how my professional services can help you! Get Well and Stay Well My goal as a natural health care practitioner is to encourage the body and mind to regain and maintain their normal function. Indeed, when you create health, dis-ease disappears. As you help the body regain it’s normal function, many health problems resolve naturally. Some of the conditions I have successfully worked with include: low back pain joint pain neck and shoulder pain chronic low energy/weakness stress overload Is This Work Right for You? People come to me for a variety of reasons. For many, a weekly massage serves as an antidote to stress or as a recuperative phase of their fitness program. Others are looking for help with chronic pain or injuries. The services I offer are tailored to meet your needs whether you are ill, in tip-top shape, or somewhere in between. The goal is to increase your wellness: your vitality, your ease of movement, the function of your body, and your peace of mind.
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