Being told to drink water after a massage
“Drink plenty of water after your massage” routine advice handed out by massage therapists everywhere, myself included. We’re told this after most other treatments too such as reflexology, reiki, cupping etc. Ever wondered why? Many of you will have been told that massage/ (insert other complementary therapies here) flushes out toxins in the body therefore to assist them in leaving the body you should drink plenty of water.
Well meaning therapists churn out this advice daily. The fact that massage schools and tutors across the country still spew this unfounded claim, drilling it into their students is annoying. I still advise all my clients to keep up their water intake after treatment but not because of the “toxins”.
So what exactly are these toxins? How does massage move them around the body? Is it dangerous? Will water really flush them out? Are they going to build up if I don’t drink water after my massage?
Lets take a closer look at this frequently perpetuated myth. First off, what is a toxin anyway?
a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues and typically capable of inducing antibody formation – Merriam-Webster
So a toxin is a specific product of our metabolic activities. Furthermore, the toxins being referred to are metabolic waste. Common metabolic waste products are carbon dioxide, ammonia, uric acid, urea and creatinine. Abnormal build up of these wastes in the body is indeed harmful.
However, they are actually a product of our natural biological functions. Our bodies are designed to eliminate these wastes. They are excreted mainly via the kidneys. Organs such as the liver and lungs are also involved. Massage is not required to facilitate the process. Consequently massage does not release metabolic waste.
Another attempt at explaining these toxins is lactic acid. The incorrect outdated assumption that lactic acid is waste metabolite that can be flushed out by massage. Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid is not the cause of muscle pain and fatigue during exercise. It actually acts as a fuel for the muscles. Our bodies convert glucose into lactic acid during oxygen deficit. For example, during strenuous exercise when our oxygen supply drops. Once we stop exercising our liver converts any excess lactic acid back into glycogen. Lactic acid does not get trapped in our tissues. Massage does not flush it out.
So why do I need to drink water?
During a massage your muscles are worked on using kneading, compression and stretching movements. This can leave you feeling a little dehydrated. Add hot stones to the mix and you’ll probably feel it more so. The heat from the hot stones raises your body temperature. Thai massage uses stretching and dynamic movements. I find this can leave you feeling like you’ve had a work out. Naturally you’ll want to reach for a hydrating glass of water afterwards.
the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%. – H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158
On average an adult body is between 50 – 65% water. Women have less water in their bodies than men. Factors such as age and the amount of fatty tissue a person has affects the percentage of water in their body. Water is a main component in most of our body parts. Therefore, adequate hydration helps our body work smoothly. Water helps our body in many ways. For example, lubricating the joints, regulating body temperature (through respiration and sweating), flushing body waste (urine) even helping prevent constipation.
Thirst is often a sign of mild dehydration. Other signs of dehydration include lightheadedness, headaches, fatigue, dry skin, weakness and dry mouth. The colour of your urine can reveal your state of hydration. Darker colour urine points to poor levels of hydration. In contrast, lighter or straw coloured urine signals good hydration levels.
However, totally clear urine can be cause for concern. It could indicate excessive water consumption. You may be drinking more water than you require. The need to urinate after a massage is common for many people. The fluids excreted need to be replaced, so drinking water is advisable.
I drink more water after a massage/ reflexology. Otherwise I have a tendency to get a dehydration headache. When properly hydrated, our bodies function better. Our muscles also feel and work better. They feel less sore and tight. A hydrated body heals more effectively than a dehydrated one.
Massage provides a deep state of relaxation. Hence you may feel a little spaced out immediately afterwards. A refreshing glass of water certainly helps. It grounds you and gets you ready for the rest of your day.
Now you know why you should drink water after massage
Our liver, kidneys and lungs are the main organs involved in eliminating cellular wastes in our bodies. As long as they are functioning as they should be, flushing out toxins is not something we need to be worrying about. Massage does not release toxins into the tissues. It is however, great for relaxation, easing muscle tightness and tension, relieving stress and reducing pain.
The real reason to drink water after a massage is nothing to do with flushing out toxins. It’s about staying hydrated. Enjoying a moment to sit down with a refreshing glass of water offered to you by your friendly massage therapist after enjoying an awesome massage session!
Aside from drinking water there are a few other things you can do to maximise the benefits of your massage treatment. Here are my top 5 tips to get the most from massage and other treatments.