Everyone has heard about lactic acid. Some of us believe that lactic acid causes problems only when we overexercise. Lactic acid is always being produced by working muscles and can become a problem when muscles are tight from stress or lack of exercise. When lactic acid is injected into healthy people, the lactic acid produces both pain and anxiety. So we want to avoid having lactic acid accumulate in the interstitial fluids around the muscles. When your muscles are healthy they produce low levels of lactic acid because healthy muscles are able to utilize a sufficient supply of oxygen. Also, when muscles are healthy, the lymphatic structures in and around the muscles are able to remove the lactic acid. This changes when your muscles are tight or hypertonic. When muscles are tight, less oxygen is delivered to the muscle cells from the capillary beds. When less oxygen is present to support the muscle’s metabolic work, more lactic acid is produced. The excess lactic acid produces both pain and anxiety. Massage restores muscles to a healthy state, directly causes more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles, improves lymphatic removal of toxic acids, and lowers the amount of lactic acid in your tissues. This is one important way in which massage lowers both pain and anxiety.
Joan Sloss, Ed.D. CMMT