The Water-Toxin Myth
You may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage because some massage therapists claim that getting a massage releases toxins directly into the bloodstream, and that the best way to flush them out is to drink plenty of water to encourage your kidneys and the rest of your digestive system to process these and remove them from your body.
It never hurts to drink plenty of water, so definitely rehydrate after a massage session because its good for you. But massages don’t flush toxins into the bloodstream, and water wouldn’t help if it did.
There are a lot of scientific reasons why this is the case, but know that massage doesn’t liberate these environmental pollutants from cells or “squish” them into your bloodstream or excretory systems to be expelled. Again, that’s what your kidneys and digestive system are designed to do.
The Lactic Acid Myth
Another myth about massages? That massage is a great way to release lactic acid in the muscles after a long run or hard workout. The soreness and stiffness you experience after your first run of the season actually isn’t from lactic acid building up in your muscles, it’s what’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
When you work out, it’s like pulling on a long rope - some of the fibers in your muscles may break during the workout, in what are essentially tiny microtears. Unlike pulling on a rope that loses some of its strength though, your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger and stronger.
Your muscles do create lactic acid, but this is something they do all the time, even when your body is at rest. So the idea that your muscles are sore from lactic acid buildup is false. When you exercise, your body needs fuel, and breaks down some of its stored energy to get this, becoming acidic. Lactate is just a by-product of this process that is created all the time.
That doesn’t mean you should give up your post-run massage! There are still plenty of benefits to a good sports massage. Your massage therapist can reduce the pain and stiffness after a hard workout, which moves blood and fluid around your body, helping to heal microtrauma from your workout.
When you heavily work out a muscle group, it loses some of its flexibility and tenses up, making it easier to tear. A thorough sports massage eases this tension. It also reduces inflammation and swelling, and lessens fatigue, gearing you up to conquer your next race, conditioning class, or sweat session.
Other Benefits to Massage Therapy
Don’t worry. There are still plenty of reasons for regular massages, and benefits to even the occasional massage. Each massage is a great way to reduce stress and pamper yourself, sure, but there are major health perks as well. With massage, you can:
Reduce stress hormones like cortisol
Improve joint function and range of motion
Lessen muscle soreness after a hard workout
Speed healing of overworked, sore muscles
Reduce inflammation and helping the muscles’ repair process
Help with anxiety and insomnia
Massage has countless health benefits, but flushing toxins isn’t one of them. If you’re looking to remove pollutants and poisons from your life, there’s no quick fix: you have to do so with conscious lifestyle changes. Enjoy your massage and relish in the many other benefits you’re receiving from your time on the table.