Does massage help remove lactic acid?
Many massage therapists claim that one way massage helps your muscles recover is via the enhanced removal of lactic acid. They claim you should take a warm bath in Epsom salts to rid your body further of the dreaded lactic acid. However, no evidence proves that lactic-acid removal is enhanced by massages or warm baths. We do know, however, that a drop in pH due to the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle as a result of strenuous exercise can lead to a decrease in force production (that is, your muscles get tired).
A study at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls compared the effects of massage, passive recovery, and mild bicycle riding (about 40% of max oxygen uptake) on lactate metabolism after an exhaustive treadmill run. The subjects were trained runners who performed a maximal treadmill run to elevate the level of blood lactate and induce exhaustion after 4–6 minutes. Researchers sampled the subjects’ blood lactate for up to 20 minutes after exercise and found that passive recovery (lying down supine) and massage had no effect on blood lactate levels, while mild bicycle riding caused a better removal of blood lactate 15–20 minutes after exhaustive exercise. This does not suggest that massage is useless for athletes; all it means is that the benefits of massage have nothing to do with the removal of lactic acid.