Fitness & Health, Sport & Exercise Science

Massage actually impairs blood flow to the muscle after exercise

massageA research team at Ontario’s Queen’s University appears to have blown open the myth that massage after exercise improves circulation to the muscle and assists in the removal of lactic acid and other waste products.

“This dispels a common belief in the general public about the way in which massage is beneficial,” says Kinesiology and Health Studies professor Michael Tschakovsky.

“It also dispels that belief among people in the physical therapy profession. All the physical therapy professionals that I have talked to, when asked what massage does, answer that it improves muscle blood flow and helps get rid of lactic acid. Ours is the first study to challenge this and rigorously test its validity.”

The belief that massage aids in the removal of lactic acid from muscle tissue is so pervasive it is even listed on official websites as being one of the benefits of massage, despite there being absolutely no scientific research to back this up.

The researchers set out to discover if this untested hypothesis was true and their results show that massage actually impairs blood flow to the muscles after exercise and that it therefore also impairs the removal of lactic acid from muscle after exercise.

These findings are due to be presented in a paper at the annual American College of Sports Medicine conference in Seattle, at the end of May and we will bring you further details when available.

Source: Queen’s University

UPDATE 26th May 2009
You can now view an abstract of Prof. Tschakovsky’s paper.

This entry was posted in: Fitness & Health, Sport & Exercise Science


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  1. Willie Hogan says

    Very catching headline ” Massage actually impairs blood flow to the muscle after exercise” stated as fact no less and then no evidence presented but a get out of jail card in the form of the findings are due to be presented at an end of month conference. Let’s see the evidence, see the study protocols and then make our minds up. No proof of limititations of massage is as bad as no proof of benefits of massage. All hearsay. Yawn!!!

    • I inserted the note of caution as we have not yet seen the report and cannot therefore fully validate its contents. However the statements made by the report’s author, Michael Tschakovsky seem quite unambiguous to me.

  2. Ray Christian says

    To Prof Michael Tschakovsky. As a Physical Therapist and College Lecturer who has taught and used Remedial and Sports Massage as a treatment on patients for decades on sub acute and chronic conditions and in pre and post operative phases with successful outcomes in every case. The patients have praise the benifits they receive from the massage treatments.
    The Primary Effects are physiological and psychological and include:
    Improved circulation, General and Muscular relaxation, Functional separation of muscle and connective tissue, Formation of strong mobile scar tissue, Connective tissue normaliation, Increased mental alertness and clarity, also Deactivation of trigger points, Release of soft tissue adhesions.
    The Secondary Effects are performance related outcomes and include:
    Greater energy, Greater flexibility and range of movement, Fluid drainage, Faster recovery, Pain reduction of not less than 50% in each treament, Appropriate level of emotional stimulation.
    With respect try telling my patients and athletes these beniifits and effects do not exist through receiving Remedial and Sports Massage.

    Ray Christian

  3. Ray, thanks for your excellent, informed comment. We will try and provide full details of exactly what is contained in Prof, Tschakovsky’s findings after he presents his paper next week. Clearly there are many who do not concur with his statements so far.

  4. Pedro Sepulveda says

    To Human Kinetics. I really don´t understand your position about the non results of massage as in one of the latest books(excelent book by the way) put by you in the market “Skeletal Muscle Damage and Repair” where Peter Tiidus refers in Chapter 16 pages 195 to 201 quote “In general, the research available tends to suggest that massage either is ineffective or has only limited influence on manifestations of damage or rate repair” unquote. I didin’t have the possibility to reach the studies of Pro. Michael Tschaikovsky but with the support of what I read from Peter Tiidus I fully agree that massage specialy directed to increased blood flow and clear up latic acid is a fake. Pedro Sepulveda

    • Hi Pedro,
      We do not have a position on this issue as we have not yet seen the report and have merely reported the claims being made by Prof. Tschakovsky. We try and bring to the attention of our readers and customers, issues they may not be aware of or that we think will be of relevance and interest to them without voicing our own views. Once the research is presented we will try and publish responses to it from from both sides of opinion. Thanks for the nice comments about the book by the way.

  5. Just to give you an update on this article.
    We have tried to find comments as to how this presentation was received but without success. We have also requested feedback from Dr Tschakovsky and we are awaiting his comments. Apart from Human Kinetics no one seems to have picked up on this story which is a shame as it would benefit from a wider debate.

  6. Pedro A.L. de Sepulveda says

    Dear Messrs. Trying not to be boring you about this subject (I know that defenite conclusions in science obviously have to take their time)I would like you to mail me (if possible)whether is there any news about this investigation. The point is as I am teatching anatomy and physiology and as the next term is coming very soon I would be sure that my belief that massage is a placebo. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Cheers Pedro

    • Hi Pedro,
      Unfortunately I have not been able to get any feedback on this article other than that it was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Seattle at the end of May. This article generated a good deal of interest and it is disappointing that no more information is avalable.

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