Massage Mythbuster: Get Those Toxins Out…

illustration of right and left brain

Happy 2020! 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 perhaps a massage will flush those 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 TV 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 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 of any kind 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, and get down to the nitty gritty of what actually makes massage so good for you.

What are “Toxins?”

Let’s take a look. 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. Like anything else, 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 it’s important to remember here that even good things in too-large doses can be considered poison. (Ingesting large amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, for example.)

Toxins are a kind of subset of poisons; they are poisons produced by living things. Technically, drinking alcohol, getting a massage, and hard 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 pretty great job of flushing toxins all on its own. If you are in good health, your kidneys & liver should already be doing a great job of removing toxins.

Except for very 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 of these juice cleanses are actually just crash diets with major caloric deficits that can leave you feeling weak, sluggish, & tired. And they certainly are 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 and malaise (PMSM). Excessive pressure is ill-advised for extremely vulnerable patients, such as the elderly or those with health issues.

Besides that, it’s 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 that she can 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 mintYou may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage… because some have claimed 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 was true.

Know that 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 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, your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger and stronger.

Your massage therapist can reduce the pain and stiffness after a hard workout.  When you heavily work out a muscle group, it loses some of its flexibility & tenses up, making it easier to tear. Massage can ease this tension. Also, you may see improvement with inflammation & swelling, or experience less fatigue… gearing you up to conquer your next race, conditioning class, or hot yoga session.

Other Benefits to 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 and reduce pain for those with osteoarthritis
  • Lessen muscle soreness after a hard workout
  • Speed healing of overworked, sore muscles
  • Reduce inflammation and helping the muscles’ repair process
  • Lessen fibromyalgia-related pain
  • Help with anxiety and insomnia
  • Lessen the effects of temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

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.

Once you let go of the “myth of toxins,” though, you can let go! Enjoy your massage appointment, & the many benefits you’re receiving from your time on my table.

Feedback Please…

massage therapist working on the sole of client's foot.

…or, the Importance of Speaking Up!

Chances are you know the value of a truly great massage. Especially when you’re going through times of stress or chronic pain, we all look forward to the physical and emotional benefits of coming in for a massage session.

But what can you do if your massage isn’t quite what you expected? When your massage is “fine,” but just not what you’re needing?

You might feel like you’ve been shortchanged of the relief you were hoping to find, whether you wanted to deal with stress… get help with symptoms of a chronic illness… or improve physical stiffness or muscular pain.

Or: what if your massage is absolutely fantastic, and you’d love for every session to be just as helpful in alleviating your aches, pains, and woes?

Perhaps you’re a runner, and a certain technique is really relieving the tension in your IT band. Isn’t that important to share with your massage therapist so they can continue to implement that into future massages?

I can’t stress enough how important your feedback is, in order to deliver you a stellar massage every time. I never want to let a session go by without you feeling like you’ve gotten the massage you need & deserve. And the best way to get your best massage? Communication & feedback!

The Positives

By now you’ve probably noticed that during your massage I check in with you from time to time about all sorts of different things: the temperature of the room, the pressure I’m using, how you are feeling.

Although I named my business Quiet Strength (& I’m no chatterbox), I want to know what’s working for you and what isn’t. Let’s agree to have an open line of communication, so you can share what you need. So if something feels great? I’d love to know!

Please speak up about what works for you and exactly what your preferences are. The more communicative you are about what works best for your body in a session, the easier it is for me to personalize your massage.

I won’t be offended if you express what you like or don’t like about your massage. And feel free to speak up at any time.

The Not-So-Positives

Just like I want to know what feels great, I also want you to feel safe sharing what I can do better. What’s right for some clients, isn’t right for everyone. We all have different opinions, preferences, & feelings, and that’s what makes us unique.

And your feedback is the best way for me to know if there was something you didn’t like… so that moving forward, we can figure out together how to arrive at your perfect massage.

In the same way that sharing what you like helps me focus your massage towards the things that work for your body, sharing what doesn’t feel comfortable for you gives me the opportunity to change it.

How You Can Help

So what’s the best way to open up our line of communication, so you get the best massage for you? I want you to share.

Don’t assume I always know best: You know your own body better than anyone else, so if something is uncomfortable, tell me! While I am a trained professional, you are the foremost expert on your body and what feels right & what doesn’t.

Yes, I know how to find specific tight or sore areas, and I know numerous techniques to relieve tension in them. But what I don’t know is exactly how you are feeling on the table. So trust yourself as the expert on how you’re feeling, & know that it’s safe to communicate those thoughts with me!

Communicate before you get on the table: You don’t have to wait until you are on the table to tell me what you need. During the first few moments of your appointment, and on your intake form, you can tell me how you’re feeling.

That sets your priorities of where we should focus that day and what techniques will help you the most. Maybe you’re sore from a long run the day before, or maybe you’re experiencing a flare-up of chronic pain. Let me know right away, and keep the communication flowing during the massage too.

Don’t hesitate to speak up

Say something right away: If you’re not happy about how the massage is going, you don’t have to wait to see if things improve. (No massage therapist worth their salt will be offended if you ask for more pressure or less pressure, or for something else to change. In fact, we love feedback!) Please promise to speak up right away.

I got into the business of massage therapy to help make people’s lives better. I want to know ASAP if something is bothering you, because relieving pain & releasing stress is my life’s work!

Be specific: We’re a team. The more specific you are with me, the easier it is for me to figure out what you’re looking for and provide exactly the massage you’ve been wanting.

Maybe you want me to use a little more pressure or a little less pressure. You can always say something like, “Can you deepen the pressure one or two notches? That feels better, but you can still drop one notch deeper? That’s great!”

This lets me know exactly what you are wanting…from wanting more pressure to the exact amount, and then when things feel just right.

The bottom line? I want your feedback, so I can provide you with the best possible massage, every single time. After all, my objective is always to make you feel as well as possible.

It’s why you’re seeking a massage, and it’s why I went into the massage therapy business in the first place! Massage can be a major pillar of your wellness plan if you & I have a clear, open, & honest line of communication.

Don’t hesitate to speak up and let me know. How the massage feels to you, is the most important thing.

It’s not just to be nosy…

Magnifying glass with colored papers

… or, Why I’m asking you all those Health Questions.

Before your first massage at my office, I’m going to need some information from you about your medical history. I’ve got a questionnaire that will ask about what medications you take and medical conditions you have, and various questions about your health history.

So why is this? Am I being nosy? Why do I need to know such detailed, personal information that you may only otherwise share with your doctor?

While it may seem like a hassle or invasion of privacy to fill out an intake form, there’s a great reason I want to know so much about your health! Knowing your medical history not only protects you from potential injury during your massage, but it also means I can better personalize your massage to your needs. This ensures that when you leave the massage table, you feel better than ever.

What is a contraindication, and what does it have to do with my massage?

Every so often, it turns out that for some people with specific health situations, massage could potentially be harmful. This is referred to as a contraindication, and there are two different classifications of those for massage therapy.

  • Relative Contraindication: Relative contraindication means that caution should be used when performing a certain procedure. In the world of massage therapy, this means that a client can generally receive their massage. But I will need to modify my techniques and particulars of the session (like positioning, pressure, &/or products used) to stay safe & effective.

Some conditions just mean that we should avoid massage to a particular area of the body (such as a broken bone). These are local contraindications.

  • Absolute Contraindication: Absolute contraindication is the term used when massage could cause harm, and should not be applied at all. This is pretty rare, but it happens.

Here are some examples of conditions I’ve seen with clients, which can be contraindications for massage therapy:

  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • High-risk pregnancy
  • Bruising, cuts, abrasions, and even sunburns
  • Psoriasis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer (I specialize in oncology massage, and in many cases can work with you)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart problems
  • Epilepsy

Fear not: Not all of the above listed medical conditions rule out massage for you.

In fact, for some of these conditions, massage can have major soothing effects.

However, I will need to give you specific care. This is one of the main reasons it’s vital to share information with me about your medical history.

Also, colds, the flu, skin infections, or the presence of a fever are all reasons to wait to get a massage until you are feeling better. Read more about my cancellation policy here.

“Why do you need to know what medications I am taking?”

There are some medications that have an effect on your body’s ability to heal and process correctly and I need to be aware of what you’re taking so I can make adjustments.

For example, firm pressure in a massage could be dangerous if you are taking blood thinners. Or, if you’ve been on corticosteroids for a long time, you may have low bone density or thin skin as a result.

If you have been affected by cancer, we will discuss your side effects and make modifications for the treatments you’ve been receiving.

Again, in almost all cases, we can make adjustments to keep your massage safe and effective for you. The key is to keep me fully informed.

In a nutshell, even if you think a detail may be irrelevant, it’s smart to complete my intake form entirely & honestly. That helps me create the best and safest massage, just for you.

Oh, by the way… don’t be concerned if it takes a few minutes at your first appointment to go over the details of your health history. I’ll probably have some followup questions to ask, and you can in turn ask me any questions that you have.

But, since I’m an independent business and not a franchise, this consultation time doesn’t take away from your massage time on the table. Your 60-minute massage should still be a 60-minute massage. That’s my intention… to make your session the best that it can be for you!