Hydration! With certain tissues being made up of 90% water and 75% of our bodies overall, it’s necessary. But what is the role of hydration and drinking water in massage? Most everyone who has received massage has heard from their friends, family, or therapist that it is crucial to drink water immediately after a massage to “help flush toxins from the body.” Vague, yet important sounding so usually we do it. What we do not often hear though is what toxins are actually being released and why drinking water in this time frame would improve the removal process.
What is a Toxin?
Toxin is defined (by Wikipedia) as “a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.” This means that air pollutants, coffee, pesticides, and other things that we put into our bodies are not toxins even if they are harmful. So by definition, if we can assume that the statement “flush toxins” is utilizing an accurate meaning, we are not washing away any of the heavy metals or chemicals that we ingest. In fact what effects massage has on releasing toxic substances at all is difficult to determine as very little research has been done on the topic. Certain treatments claim to specifically remove heavy metals from the body such as Pedi-Karma and have anecdotal evidence to support these statements, but these modalities lack experimental evidence. Despite the lack of research, though, one of the major benefits of massage espoused by massage schools and therefore therapists is that it does remove toxins from the muscles.
So What’s Happening?
Studies vary in their conclusions, but if we take the number of people whose faces get red – even when laying face up – we can with some certainty say that massage increases circulation. Massage also helps to address release ischemic tissues, or tissues that have been deprived of blood, by communicating with the nervous system and breaking pain cycles. Ischemia can be caused by a multitude of conditions, but “tight” muscles and Trigger Points are the two which are most relevant here. Therefore, when we both loosen hypertonic muscles and increase circulation to these areas, nutrients and oxygen flood into the formerly tight places and carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulfates, phosphates and excess water are pushed out. Collectively these substances are known as metabolic wastes which are toxins. Over time as we strove to find ways of communicating the benefits of massage to our clients, this process got boiled down to “releasing toxins.” The “flushing” aspect most likely came in with the understanding that these wastes which must and will be removed from the body are eliminated with our urine. More water equals more efficient removal, right?
To Drink or Not to Drink
Well, the body naturally performs this process all on its own. As long as we are consistently well hydrated that is. Many people, however, do not consume enough water to efficiently meet all of their body’s needs on a daily basis. Knowing this, massage therapists will often prompt their clients to have some water after their session. So should you drink water after your massage? If you’re thirsty, absolutely! If you would like some, right on! If you are positive that you get enough water throughout the day normally, there’s no need if you do not want.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them below!