Although there is research dating back to at least 1995 that demonstrates massage therapy after exercise does not improve blood flow, aid in recovery, or remove lactate from muscles, or any other metabolite from muscles, the myth that massage therapy improves blood flow and removes muscles waste products after exercise persists.
Many massage therapists either through ignorance, or perhaps even pure snake oil tactics, still promote this idea. Probably a good idea to stay away from the therapists who do so.. Or at least, maybe suggest they read the odd research paper on massage every now and then.
Massage therapy is an integral part of my overall healthy living plan. I do self trigger point massage on a regular basis, and see a couple good registered massage therapists who take care of the nasty trigger points that arise from regular exercise, or perhaps simply sleeping the wrong way at night.
When tested with high tech Doppler devices blood flow was revealed to either have no change or actually be reduced by traditional massage therapy where long, deep stroking motions are used on muscles.
In one study removal of lactate was made worse by massage, not better. When compared to active recovery of low intensity stationary bike riding, the bike riding was effective at removing muscle metabolites whereas the massage was not.
Your best bet for recovery post exercise? (Hard exercise that is.. easy exercise isn't really stressful enough to require specific recovery protocols.)
A 10 to 15 minute easy spin on a bike, followed by both protein and carb intake, and perhaps immersion into cool water. There is some research indicating cool water immersion may reduce inflammation and improve recovery better than not including cool water immersion.
Int J Sports Med. 1995 Oct;16(7):478-83.
Effleurage massage, muscle blood flow and long-term post-exercise strength recovery.
Department of Physical Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 May;29(5):610-4.
Failure of manual massage to alter limb blood flow: measures by Doppler ultrasound.
Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Dec 9. [Epub ahead of print]
Massage Impairs Post Exercise Muscle Blood Flow and "Lactic Acid" Removal.
School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada, K7L 3N6.