Student work: Does Massage Flush out Lactic Acid from Muscle Cells? by Alejandra Martinez

Michelle Burns
August 3, 2015

During the course of attending massage school at A New Beginning School of Massage, students are given a number of assignments that requiring research and writing. Some of these assignments result in very insightful and  well thought out information and  decision-making outcomes. I am happy to share some of their assignments for you to enjoy.

Does Massage Flush out Lactic Acid from Muscle Cells?

157px-back-pain-clip-art-1388508There's no doubt of the health benefits ensuing from massage therapy, which include lymphatic drainage to realigning the body; from increasing the circulation and stimulation of oxygenated blood to releasing myofascial tension. But what about flushing out lactic acid from muscle cells? I began doing some research on this and thankfully there are many types of research found in the massage profession; medical articles and case studies online to magazine journals and surveys and reviews. I find that these are valid because they are evidence/experiment based and reported publicly. The evidence concluded from massage therapy studies is important because it is opening new awareness of the human body's homeostasis, and in medicine. I think it is important to keep up with studies of massage therapy because we expand our knowledge of the human body. it true that massage flushes out lactic acid from muscle cells? Well, the answer is no.

To better understand the concept of lactic acid, we first have to comprehend what it does. Lactic acid is a substance the body creates after rigorous exercise. Muscles contract to the point of exhaustion and lactic acid was thought to be a waste product of exercise. "It (lactic acid) is the result of the glycolytic energy production," according to Diane Thompson, in her somatic research, The Lactic Acid Debate. "In other words, muscles make lactic acid to fuel cells not only in the muscle that produces the lactate, but also as an energy source that can be shuttled off to adjacent muscle cells for fuel. Lactic acid has also been found to fuel fibers in the heart and brain cells." Lactic acid is also a continual product of carbohydrate metabolism. But the idea of massage getting rid of the lactic acid is myth. In another source, Keith Eric Grant PhD. from Massage and the Lactic Acid Myth-Lactating Mythers, he states that the body during glycolysis produces pyruvic acid. Although, he adds,"If the pyruvic acid is not being removed as fast as it is being produced, it will build up, bringing glycolysis to a halt. To prevent this...lactic dehydrogenase converts the pyruvic acid to lactic acid." Also by training efficiently and increasing the mitochondria in muscle cells, the lactate build up is burned for energy and lactic acid clears quickly. Over training though, can kill muscle cells. So, massage does not flush out lactic acid but rather can ease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)–"once thought to be caused by lactic acid build up but now attributed to inflammation and micro-tears in the muscle fibers, fascia and nociceptors" Thompson cites.

So, we can conclude that massage does not flush out lactic acid as most would believe; a common myth in the massage therapy field. When clients complain about the lactic acid build up in their muscles, now you know what you can explain to them: Lactic acid forms from rigorous exercise and is not formed in muscle cells nor is it a waste product. It is an energy source the body uses for fuel.


The Lactic Acid Debate somatic research by Diana Thompson,
Lactating Mythers (Massage and the Lactic Acid Myth) by Keith Eric Grant, PhD.

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