A client recently asked: “Massage removes lactic acid, doesn’t it?” This gave me pause. While it was thought to be true a decade ago, it is now considered to be unequivocally false. At that time it was also touted that massage removes toxins. It turns out that wasn’t accurate either.
Twenty years ago there was very little research or science around why massage does what it does and why it might be good for a person. Thankfully, research and science have come a long way in proving what many have known all along — therapeutic touch is good for health!
For more information on lactic acid read this article from Scientific American. It explains how lactic acid is part of a chemical reaction involved with anaerobic activity. Along these same lines it has been determined that lactic acid has nothing to do with delayed onset muscle soreness caused by exercise.
What does cause delayed onset muscle soreness? When muscles are exercised beyond their normal load they experience micro-tears. These tears incite inflammation. The good news is that studies show that massage helps reduce the inflammation associated with second-day muscle soreness.
This article from WebMD describes exercise related muscle soreness. Of note, this article specifically recommends massage to cope with it.In review, what does massage actually do? With the proper techniques applied it can accomplish the following:
- Lengthen shortened muscles
- Erase scar tissue
- Loosen fascia
- Stop muscle spasms
- Work out trigger points
- Move Qi, or universal life energy
- Sedate the nervous system
- Decrease cortisol (stress hormone)
- Increase oxytocin (feel good hormone)
- Move lymph
- Increase range of motion
- Reduce inflammation
- Most importantly — Make you feel good in your body
I call that an impressive list!