Massage Impairs Postexercise Muscle Blood Flow and "Lactic Acid" Removal


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c9214f
Clinical Sciences

Purpose: This study tested the hypothesis that one of the ways sports massage aids muscle recovery from exercise is by increasing muscle blood flow to improve "lactic acid" removal.

Methods: Twelve subjects performed 2 min of strenuous isometric handgrip (IHG) exercise at 40% maximum voluntary contraction to elevate forearm muscle lactic acid. Forearm blood flow (FBF; Doppler and Echo ultrasound of the brachial artery) and deep venous forearm blood lactate and H+ concentration ([La], [H+]) were measured every minute for 10 min post-IHG under three conditions: passive (passive rest), active (rhythmic exercise at 10% maximum voluntary contraction), and massage (effleurage and pétrissage). Arterialized [La] and [H+] from a superficial heated hand vein was measured at baseline.

Results: Data are presented as mean ± SE. Venoarterial [La] difference ([La]v−a) at 30 s of post-IHG was the same across conditions (passive = 6.1 ± 0.6 mmol·L−1, active = 5.7 ± 0.6 mmol·L−1, massage = 5.5 ± 0.6 mmol·L−1, NS), whereas FBF was greater in passive (766 ± 101 mL·min−1) versus active (614 ± 62 mL·min−1, P = 0.003) versus massage (540 ± 60 mL·min−1, P < 0.0001). Total FBF area under the curve (AUC) for 10 min after handgrip was significantly higher in passive versus massage (4203 ± 531 vs 3178 ± 304 mL, P = 0.024) but not versus active (3584 ± 284 mL, P = 0.217). La efflux (FBF × [La]v−a) AUC mirrored FBF AUC (passive = 20.5 ± 2.8 mmol vs massage = 14.7 ± 1.6 mmol, P = 0.03, vs active = 15.4 ± 1.9 mmol, P = 0.064). H+ efflux (FBF × [H+]v−a) was greater in passive versus massage at 30 s (2.2 ± 0.4e−5 vs 1.3 ± 0.2e−5 mmol, P < 0.001) and 1.5 min (1.0 ± 0.2e−5 vs 0.6 ± 0.09e−5 mmol, P = 0.003) after IHG.

Conclusions: Massage impairs La and H+ removal from muscle after strenuous exercise by mechanically impeding blood flow.

Author Information

School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, CANADA

Address for correspondence: Michael E. Tschakovsky, Ph.D., School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and Department of Physiology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2009.

Accepted for publication November 2009.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine