Massage and Toxins

Many massage therapists will tell you that after a massage you should drink plenty of water to 'flush out toxins'. Massage websites also claim that one of the benefits of massage is that it can rid the body of unspecified toxins that can accumulate in the tissues and cells. Search for 'release toxins massage' on Google and you will find websites that make this claim. However does massage do this and is there any evidence to support these claims?

massage toxins

Grant (1) believes that this is a myth that is commonly taught in massage schools and in massage books. It continues to be passed on as misinformation to massage students. It is not disputed that there are likely to be real toxins that may accumulate in the body such as heavy metals in the bones or organic pollutants in the fatty tissues. However these toxins are unlikely to be released by the mechanical actions of massage as they are too chemically bound.

Grant argues that because the cells of the body are receiving nutrients and oxygen then venous flow must also be occurring so that any toxins cannot be building up within reach of the circulatory system.

A similar argument applies to the lymphatic system. If the lymphatic system does not perform and cellular tissues were in a state of static isolation then there would be a continual build-up in toxicity levels which according to Chikly (2) would lead to the body developing major systemic edemas, autointoxication and die within 24-48 hours.

If neither necrosis nor edema is to result, the tissue environment must be constantly bathed in blood and lymph, which would rule out the build up of free toxins. If there are restrictions, such as adhesions in the fascia, then they will be on a macroscopic nature - still allowing cellular (microscopic) circulation.

This is obviously not suggesting that massage does not benefit the body or the individual. By relaxing local muscle hypertonicity, the muscle activity will be reduced which will reduce the need for nutrients and rate of production of metabolic products. It may also reduce pressure on surrounding tissues, which improves circulation. However this is not massage 'flushing out toxins', merely aiding homeostasis. Anecdotal evidence of feeling nauseous and 'off-colour' after a massage may be an artifact of this returning of the body to homeostasis at a rate faster than the body would without the mechanical intervention of massage.

Now obviously drinking water is necessary for optimum health and having regular massage is great for the well being of the body. The suggestion made here is that specifically drinking water after a massage 'to flush out toxins' is a massage myth.

So the next time a massage therapist suggests that you should drink water after a massage specifically to flush out toxins then maybe just quietly ask them to explain what they actually mean.

(1) Grant K. 'Flushing Out Myths'.
(2) Chikly B. 'Silent Waves - Theory and Practice of Lymph Drainage Therapy.' 2001.

By Richard Lane

Any information, advice, recommendations, statements or otherwise contained herein, or in any other communication whether oral or in writing, is not intended to replace or to be a substitute for medical advice trained by a trained physician or healthcare practitioner.

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