Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Too Much Lactic Acid Causes "Crystals" To Form In Your Muscles?

*What a load of  sh--!
One of my massage therapist asked me today if it's true that with too much exercise, lactic acid can form crystals in your muscles? His friend had been been told by a massage therapist that "crystals" can form in his muscles with too much running and no sports massage to "break the crystals."

This is the 3rd time in two weeks someone asked about this. The first two were my patients.

Apparently they had gone to this particular massage place and were told by the massage therapist there that if "the crystals" in the muscles were not "broken up" it's bad for them and they can't run well. The massage therapist(s) then WhatsApp their patients an article to read.

Now I find this really ludicrous to say the least. I've addressed this issue before. Massage does not flush lactic acid from your muscles.

Any textbook on Exercise Physiology (or you can check online) will explain that you can only accumulate lactic acid in your muscles during intense exercise (e.g. while racing or running intervals). As there is not enough oxygen available, a substance called lactate is formed. Our bodies then try to convert this lactate to energy without using oxygen.

However, this lactate or lactic acid can build up faster in your bloodstream than you can use it. The point where lactic acid starts to build up is called the "lactate threshold." So if you run just below your lactate threshold you won't fill the "burn" in your muscles.

That is what interval training is all about - trying the raise your lactate threshold so you can run at your race pace longer without incurring oxygen debt (or that burning sensation in your muscles).

This "burn" you feel is temporary. Once you slow down and/ or stop exercise, your body can then easily convert the lactic acid to energy. After a short while there isn't any more lactic acid in your muscles. The "burning" sensation in your muscles happen only during intense exercise.

Lactic acid clears very quickly on its own. By the time an athlete has a chance to "use" anything that claims to flush out lactic acid, the lactic acid is probably gone. You don't need help to dissipate it.

Lactic acid definitely does not cause soreness. The soreness you sometimes feel in your muscles a day or two (especially if you've pushed too hard) isn't from the lactic acid accumulation in your muscles. It's most likely delayed onset of muscle soreness or DOMs.

Back to my conversation with my colleague. He then said that his friend said that after a massage session there "to break his crystals" he normally can't run for three days! That's how sore he got. More likely how brutal or how heavy handed the massage therapist was.

When I was still racing, I get sports massage done so I can train/ run long and hard the next day and the day after and after. That's what the sports massage is supposed to do. Helping me to recover better so I can run long and run hard every day if possible. As an athlete, that's what I want to do. If I have to rest three days after a sports massage how do I get my training done?

So be very wary if your massage therapist or even physiotherapist tells you that that you need to "get your crystals broken" or that you need to flush the lactic acid out of your muscles.

*Thanks to my patient for forwarding the article to me.


  1. I am a body builder and for any muscle issues, I prefer acupuncture therapy. It’s a natural therapy that works quickly. My practitioner at acupuncture Mississauga clinic provides highly professional treatment and very satisfied with him.

  2. can your body produce or over produce lactic acid to form crystals without any heavy workouts? I ask because I was diagnosed with LUPUS years ago. and I know that it can cause a horrible type of arthritis.. like RA, soriatic arthritis etc. i cant workout like I use to since being diagnosed. I use do looong walks, lift weights, was doing it all. I would take a preworkout/post workout powder, for energy and post sorness. I was told that if you take those pre and post workout supplements it can cause you to build up crystals in your muscles.....I can push in on the back of my arms and it feels like needles poking back and the pain is so bad my whole body starts to have a reaction to the pain, sweating, cold, clammy, etc. so is what I have due to really bad type of arthritis- or is it from taking the preand post workout drinks or the LUPUS? and how do you get rid of excess lactic acid build up in your body?