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Massage Is Not Beneficial After Exercise


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Massage after exercise does not improve blood flow to the muscle, and what is even more, it actually impairs the flow of blood, and therefore oxygen, to the muscle, according to Canadian scientists at Queen's University in Kingston, Ottawa.

Our findings contradict a common belief in the general population about the way in which massage is very good and beneficial for health, Michael Tschakovsky, a professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University, said in a statement. For many years the majority of physical therapy professionals have assumed that massage after exercise improves blood circulation to the muscle and helps to get rid of the build-up of lactic acid and other waste products, professor said. However, the new study appears to be the first one to challenge this claims and rigorously test their validity. Lactic acid is a by-product of muscle activity and is exactly what causes the feeling of muscle burning during intense exercise.

For the study purposes the experts looked at 12 male individuals who were performing isometric hand grips for 2 minutes after what they were given massages. The experts found that receiving massage to the forearm immediately after exercise in reality impaired blood flow to the muscle, rather than improved blood circulation.

According to the experts, the idea that massage helps in the removal of lactic acid from muscles, and therefore promises less pain the morning after the workout, is so widespread that it is even listed on the Canadian Sports Massage Therapists website. However, Dr. Tschakovsky said that there is literally no scientific research or evidence to back this idea up. It is very strange how not only regular people but even scientists have accepted this theory without no scientific support whatsoever, the publication further indicates, and that is why the current study was necessary.

Dr. Tschakovsky carried out his research in collaboration with Kinesiology master's degree candidate Vicky Wiltshire. The two investigators set out to figure out if this untested hypothesis of the massage benefits after workout held true, and their findings show that the procedure actually impairs blood flow to the muscle after exercise, and that it therefore also impairs the removal of lactic acid from muscle after exercise, the experts said of the new research, stressing out the fact that a post-exercise massage can actually do more harm than good when it comes to experiencing pain a couple of hours after exercise.

Despite his own findings, Dr. Tschakovsky said that he still gets sports massages himself, because in his case they appear to help. "The bottom line here is that it is not a crazy thing to think that massage might enhance blood flow, but the reality is that nobody has considered that just by compressing the muscle, you are actually cutting off blood flow," he said. This research does not send a message that massage is necessarily bad for you. Just do not expect it to increase your blood flow and take out lactic acid, concluded Dr. Tschakovsky.

Results of the findings will be presented at the annual American College of Sports Medicine conference from May 27 to 30 in Seattle, Washington.

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