Massage Mythbuster: Get Those Toxins Out…

illustration of right and left brain

Happy 2023! For a lot of us, the new year means a fresh start and brings resolve to take better care of our bodies.

Maybe you’ve had your fair share of wine & delicious food over the past few weeks. (Most of us have the tendency to eat a bit more over the holidays.) Should you detox with a juice cleanse? Or does massage flush toxins from your body?

With the general rise of health consciousness, there’s also been an increase in the idea of “detoxing.” It’s hard to avoid the plethora of ads on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook these days, trying to grab our attention with detoxification promises.

You can choose from the latest diet craze, a cleanse that’s endorsed by a famous actress, or a foot pad that claims to pull your toxins out via the soles of your feet…

And some massage therapists may claim that massage can help flush toxins out.

But what exactly are these toxins? And do these detox methods really work?

In truth, there’s little scientific evidence to prove that detoxes work, and that goes for massages as well.

While there are plenty of health benefits to massage, ridding your body of toxins is not one of them. I’m here to debunk the myth of toxins! Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what actually makes massage so good for you.

What are “Toxins”?

These indefinite “toxins” sound scary… definitely, something that you should try to avoid or get rid of at all costs.

But toxins are just a normal part of life. In small doses & within context, they are generally fine.

Perhaps what we actually fear are “poisons,” which are different from toxins. Poisons are harmful substances, but even good things in too-large doses can be considered poison. (Ingesting large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, for example.)

Toxins are poisons produced by living things. Technically, drinking alcohol, getting a massage, or doing intense exercise can all produce toxins. But these toxins are just part of how our bodies metabolize, rebuild, & process substances on a daily basis.

Consider: Your doctor wouldn’t recommend that you give up your exercise routine to avoid toxins, and any toxins created by massage certainly won’t be harmful either.

No, Massages Won’t Cleanse Your Body of Toxins.

In truth? Your body does a great job of flushing toxins on its own. If you are in good health, your kidneys, sweat glands, & liver should already be doing a great job of removing toxins.

Except for rare occasions like overconsumption of drugs or alcohol, your body doesn’t need extra help detoxing. It just needs time to do what it does best.

Detox regimens (like juice cleanses or “detoxing massages”) don’t really do much to release toxins from your body. Unfortunately, these quick-fix claims are mythical.

In fact, many juice cleanses are actually just crash diets with major caloric deficits that can leave you feeling weak, sluggish, & tired. And they’re not sustainable ways to meet your body’s nutritional needs.

But can’t a therapist dig in & work those toxins out?

If you’ve received an intense massage that left you feeling sore, tired, or disoriented, what you’ve actually experienced is post-massage soreness & malaise (PMSM). Excessive pressure is ill-advised for vulnerable folks, such as the elderly or those with health issues.

Besides that, aggressively painful bodywork is not what I offer.

If you work with an experienced, knowledgeable massage therapist, PMSM should not be an issue.

Not only should a responsible LMT not claim to detox you — but also, it is inappropriate for them to overwork your muscles or to use excessive pressure.

It‘s not my style, and other therapists shouldn‘t go beyond beneficial levels of pressure when you‘re on their table. “No pain, no gain“ does not apply here.

The Water-Toxin Myth

Water glass with fresh berries and mint

You may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage. Some “experts” claim that massages send toxins directly into the bloodstream, & the best way to flush ’em out is to drink plenty of water to encourage your kidneys to remove those toxins from your body.

This rumor has been going around for many years. However, this myth is… busted!!

It never hurts to drink plenty of water, so it can’t hurt to rehydrate after a massage session. But massages don’t flush toxins into the bloodstream, and water wouldn’t help this process even if it were true.

Massage doesn’t liberate 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

Here’s another myth that LMTs used to circulate in the early 2000s… that massage breaks up lactic acid in the muscles after a long run or hard workout.

The soreness & 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, some of the fibers in your muscles may break, essentially creating tiny microtears. Then your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger & stronger.

Your massage session can reduce the pain & stiffness after exercising.  When you heavily work out a muscle group, those tissues lose some of their flexibility & tense up, making them easier to tear. Massage can ease this tension.

Also, you may see improvement in inflammation & swelling or experience less fatigue… gearing you up to conquer your next race, conditioning class, or hot yoga session.

Other Benefits of Massage Therapy

Don’t worry. Although I’m not gonna claim to detox your body…there are still plenty of reasons for regular massages, & benefits from receiving even an occasional massage.

With massage, you can potentially:

  • Reduce stress hormones like cortisol
  • Get help dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improve joint function & reduce pain from osteoarthritis
  • Lessen muscle soreness after a workout
  • Encourage healing of overworked, sore muscles
  • Lessen fibromyalgia pain
  • Help with anxiety & insomnia

So, does massage flush toxins? 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 adopt conscious lifestyle changes.

But once you let go of the “myth of toxins,” you can enjoy your massage appointment, & the many benefits you’re receiving from your time on my table.

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