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Massages Aren't As Great As You Think

Massages Aren't As Great As You Think

[ June 17, 2010 - 12:05pm ]
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Massage
Few things are better than an apres-ski massage, but here's the rub: It might not be as good for your sore muscles as you thought.

Muscle pain and skiing often go hand in hand. Lucky for us, so do spas and ski resorts. After a long day on the slopes, you needn't look far for a relaxing, rejuvenating spa treatment. And while there's no denying a full-body massage feels good, new research suggests it might not do for your body what you've always thought.

You could be forgiven for cursing lactic acid—that long-purported muscle menace blamed for the burning pain and subsequent fatigue you feel while exercising. For the past eight to 10 decades, it was widely accepted that lactic-acid buildup was harmful to athletic performance. Only in the past few years have the medical and fitness communities  reversed their thinking. As it turns out, lactic acid isn't a harmful byproduct of muscle activity but rather a fuel the body creates and that muscles use for energy. Yet it's still been assumed that leftover lactic acid should be removed from your muscles after a workout and that the best way to do that is through massage. Turns out we we've been wrong about that, too.

A new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggest that post-exercise massages actually decrease blood flow to your muslces, inhibiting the removal of lactic acid. How? Every time pressure is applied to the muscle, the blood vessels compress and, therefore, don't transport blood efficiently. The study suggests that passive recovery—simply letting the muscles rest so blood can flow naturally—is a far better way to flush lactic acid from muscles.

Does that mean massages are useless? Goodness, no. Anyone who's enjoyed one knows they help relax your body and your mind, which is undoubtedly good for your body and your skiing.