“Make sure you drink plenty of water to flush out those toxins.” If you have ever had a massage, I am sure you have heard this phrase before. I, myself, used to say this phrase. Then I started researching these infamous “toxins.” What are these toxins that massages wring out and that water is supposed to flush out? Lactic Acid? Calcium deposits? Old Flu? Metabolic Waste?
There is no real scientific proof that shows that massage can actually rid your body of toxins. What massage IS capable of doing is promoting Lymphatic flow in the body. The Lymphatic system is a part of the Circulatory System. Its two main functions are to help aid in blood flow back to the heart and for immune defense.
If its not growing, it’s dying. This is the easiest way to describe what happens in your body and its cellular matrix. Cells in your body naturally grow and die and we have a built in maid who cleans out the debris naturally. This is how your amazing body was designed. Now, in extreme cases, this system malfunctions and some people will end up with Edema (excessive swelling). But, in general, your lymphatic system sweeps out the debris just fine.
What does this mean? Massage is typically more focused on muscle tissue and fascia. The main focus is to aid in muscular and fascia relaxation. Since fascia wraps around all muscle fibers and organs, it is possible, that when fascia restriction can be eased, that organ function can operate more efficiently. Efficiency, however, doesn’t mean “Flush Out Toxins.” It just means that your internal organs are able to function more at an optimal level.
There is one type of massage, however, that may promote movement. And that is Lymphatic massage. The Lymph system runs on movement. It doesn’t naturally just move on its own. It operates on Peristalsis (the same thing your intestines need to function properly. See below for a more defined definition.). What does that mean? Well, It relies on you, as a person, to get up and move around. As you move, your muscles contract which allows the Lymphatic fluid to move. Therefore, it is possible that, by gentle, manual manipulation (aka Lymphatic massage) that the lymph system is aided in movement. This is a large reason why the misconception that “Massage releases toxins” has come about.
However, lymphatic massage is not a Deep tissue massage. Quite the opposite, actually. Lymphatic Massage (or Lymphatic Drainage) is a light pressured, gentle massage that is intended to encourage the natural flow of lymph. SO, massage aids in Lymph flow by encouraging peristalsis. However, this does not mean that massage is causing a massive release of toxins from the muscles into the blood stream that you need to immediately flush out with water. Water is essential to your body. Most people do not drink enough water. In general, it is always an excellent idea to increase your water intake, but it is not necessary to do so just because you received a massage.
What’s the point then? Massage is great for you! Your body loves it! Always drink water! But massage isn’t going to release toxins into your blood stream nor is drinking water going to flush it all out. Don’t stress. Get a massage.
Mandy Kiley, LMT, E-RYT 500 at Dynamic Wellness
per·i·stal·sis (pĕr′ĭ-stôl′sĭs, -stăl′-)
The wavelike muscular contractions of the intestine or other tubular structure that propel the contents onward by alternate contraction and relaxation. Also called vermicular movement.