I have often wondered why an individual would want to plonk their sweaty bodies on a plinth after completing an event, even more so in the winter when they are generally covered in the dirt of the roads or fields that mixes well with the sweat. Is it because it is ‘part of the experience’, this is what a professional does or is it altruistic in that they can give to charity. Does the therapist look to gain profile whilst giving up their time or do they earn during the day. If it’s the latter then fair enough but if it’s the former how many competitors come back when they have to pay, I’m sure someone can guide me.
I’ve been trying to think this through as it makes little sense to me to stand around in the heat or cold waiting to get a 15 minute, maximum, gentle rub down when you could have had some protein, a stretch, food then be on your way home.
A recent article by Paul Ingram (www.painscience.com), 14 August 2015, titled ‘Massage impairs post exercise muscle blood flow and lactic acid removal’ In this piece he summarises as follows;
‘One of the classic claims of massage therapy is that it “aids muscle recovery from exercise … by increasing muscle blood flow to improve ‘lactic acid’ removal.” But this 2009 evidence shows that just the opposite may be the case, in at least some circumstances. It was a straightforward experiment: the researchers subjected twelve people to intense hand-gripping exercises and then measured their blood acidity with and without basic sports massage. Their measurements showed that massage significantly “impairs lactic acid and hydrogen ion removal from muscle following strenuous exercise by mechanically impeding blood flow.” Yes, you read that right: massage impairs.
That’s quite a surprising result that applies a firm push to the side of a classic sacred cow of massage lore.
Here is the original abstract in full;
Wiltshire EV, Poitras V, Pak M, Hong T, Rayner J, Tschakovsky ME. Massage impairs post exercise muscle blood flow and lactic acid removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1062–71. PubMed #19997015.
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 exercise (IHG) at 40% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) 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% MVC), and Massage (effleurage and petrissage). Arterialized [La] and [H] from a superficial heated hand vein was measured at baseline.
RESULTS: Data are mean +/-SE. Veno-arterial [La] difference ([La]v-a) at 30 s post-IHG was the same across conditions (mmol/L; Passive 6.1 +/-0.6, Active 5.7 +/-0.6 mmol/L, Massage 5.5 +/-0.6, NS), while FBF (ml/min) was greater in Passive (766 +/-101) vs. Active 614 +/-62 (P=0.003) and vs. Massage 540 +/-60 (P<0.0001). Total FBF area under the curve (AUC; ml) for 10 min post handgrip was significantly higher in Passive vs. Massage (4203 +/-531 vs. 3178 +/-304, P=0.024) but not vs. Active (3584 +/-284, P=0.217). La- efflux (mmol; FBF x [La]v-a) AUC mirrored FBF AUC (Passive 20.5 +/-2.8 vs. Massage 14.7 +/-1.6, P=0.03 vs. Active 15.4 +/-1.9, P=0.064). H+ efflux (mmol; FBF x [H]v-a) was greater in Passive vs. Massage at 30 s (2.2 +/-0.4 e-5 vs. 1.3 +/-0.2 e-5, P<‘0.001) and 1.5 min ( 1.0 +/-0.2 e-5 vs. 0.6 +/-0.09 e-5, P=0.003) post-IHG.
CONCLUSION: Massage impairs La- and H+ removal from muscle following strenuous exercise by mechanically impeding blood flow.
Whatever you think of the research the effect is brought to home by a recent article by Phil Burt, Lead Physiotherapist at Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky. This is what he has to say ‘There is a reasonable amount of evidence that massage immediately before an activity can reduce the amount of power that an athlete can produce. In the “golden hour” between team pursuit heats, unlike many teams, we don’t give the riders a “flushing out” rub down. Compared to their nutrition, cool-down and subsequent warm-up routine, it is way down the order in terms of recovery techniques, of questionable physiological benefits and may even have a negative impact on their performance in the next round.
Also some of the more aggressive soft tissue therapy techniques are quite painful, as they can result in bruising and are fairly draining, are definitely not recommended in the lead up to an event.
The above withstanding he does continue ‘Again, it comes down to personal preference and what works for you. A regular, say monthly, appointment with an experienced soft tissue therapist can be useful as a body MOT and can help identify areas of tightness or concern. Also, do not underestimate the psychological aspect either. If a massage helps you to feel good, increases your motivation to train or you feel that it improves your performance, do it’
So, instead of thinking, this rub is doing me some good the individual should be looking to;
Refuel – Sweet rice and fruit/chicken or turkey tacos/chicken fried rice – The Feed Zone – Dr Allen Lim
Rehydrate – Drink
Repair -Good quality whey Protein
Recover – Power nap
That does not include beer, a study by Yann Le Meur (@YLMsportscience) indicates that within 4 hours, post exercise, you will be as dehydrated as when you finished your event.
This is not a rant about the soft tissue industry, I am part of it, but is an open thought on how an individual may be better off looking at alternative ways of recovery rather than waiting around for upwards of an hour, I’ve seen it, to get a rub when the benefit is negligible. Instead come and see me and my fellow therapists 2 – 3 days after the event so we can give you our undivided attention and specific treatment.