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It's Wednesday morning and you notice that you feel like you've just finished a heavy workout at the gym. You realize you haven't worked out this week but you did receive a therapeutic massage.
It's been widely debated about the reason for this phenomenon. Many people seem to believe that the latent build up of lactic acid and the release thereof, during the course of a massage, is the culprit for those dull, achy muscles. However, that may be further from reality that we realize.
One of the primary roles of lactic acid is taken part in what's called, The Cori Cycle. The Cori Cycle is a part of metabolic gluconeogenesis and a step which completes the Krebs Cycle in the production of cellular respiration. Lactic Acid is formed in the muscles during muscle usage. The liver takes it up after anaerobic fermentation, where it forms pyruvate, which then becomes glucose, and is given back into the muscle. After being delivered into the muscles it begins another process, ultimately becoming a renewed source of cellular energy.
This process is for the purpose of the prevention of lactic acidosis, which is responsible for rigor mortis after death. The body enters anaerobic metabolism of glucose provided for cellular respiration, causing muscles to become stiff. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and irregular heartbeat.
During a therapeutic massage, techniques such as muscle stripping, cross-fiber friction, myofacial release, and movement of the muscle tissue, in fact, creates a kind of trauma to the muscle tissue and the tissues above it. Imagine a ball of wadded up paper, you might have just thrown in the trash. Now, imagine all the connective tissue fibers, interwoven fascia, and scar tissue restricting proper circulation and function of your muscle tissue.
As therapeutic massage is performed, your therapist is using various techniques to, essentially, rip up that restrictive tissue to allow proper function of the muscle, as well as, allow proper circulation into the area to provide oxygen. As this occurs, muscle stripping, to reduce hypertonicity, causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers; cross-fiber friction, creates heat and breaks up adhesions within the muscle tissue; and myofacial release unbinds adhesions within the facial layers. This can result in bruising, tearing, and inflammation, resulting in your post-massage muscle soreness.
Body composition plays a large factor in how your body might react to a massage. If you carry more adipose tissue than lean muscle mass, more bruising may occur due to the fact; there is more tissue to bypass before accessing the muscle tissue. A lean muscle mass may result in more muscle tearing. Another factor is frequency of bodywork. An individual who receive more bodywork, more frequently, is less likely to suffer the effects of muscle soreness, than an individual who receives less or none at all.
At this time, there is little research and evidence to indicate whether or not any chemical factors play into the side effects of therapeutic massage. However, because many metabolic processes are involved during and after a massage, there would be reason to suspect a chemical component.
Always remember to maintain a healthy line of communication with your therapist. If pressure is intolerable or you become uncomfortable, you should relay this information to see if adjustment can and should be made.