If you have ever had a massage in our studio, one of the phrases you have almost certainly heard at some point (probably multiple times) is “Make sure you drink plenty of water over the next few days.” Most people know this is what they need to be doing, but are not exactly sure why.
You know it's important to drink water, but how does it relate to massage? First let's talk about healthy vs unhealthy muscle tissue. When your muscles are healthy (hydrated) they feel soft, almost spongy, and blood can flow freely throughout the vessels. Unhealthy (unhydrated) muscle tissue is the type that causes you pain. It is tight, feeling more compact and restricted in movement. Blood flow and lymphatic drainage through the tissue are restricted by constricting capillaries. If you are not getting a good amount of blood flow through an area, it decreases oxygen and nutrient exchange, and allows metabolic waste to build up and become stuck within the tissue. Our bodies are masters of adaptation, and your blood will actually find other, less restricted paths around this area.
When you get a thorough, deep tissue massage, these areas of muscle tension and restriction are usually the primary focal points. The therapist is working to break up the adhesions that have formed in the unhealthy tissue, allowing increased blood flow and increased movement, and restoring the muscle to a more healthy state. What happens when you open up these areas is that the metabolic waste that had been trapped due to lack of blood flow is now released and on its way out through the lymphatic system. Nutrients and oxygen are being delivered to the muscle at a faster rate, and this all uses water from your blood stream, which may give you a feeling of dehydration, or thirst. Similar to why you need more water when working out, your muscles are using more oxygen, and water is necessary for this exchange so it gets used up faster.
There is a popular myth that massage is "flushing toxins out of your body," such as lactic acid. The toxins should actually be referred to as metabolic waste, which isn’t toxic and is naturally occurring in the body. Surrounding every cell in our body is a liquid called interstitial fluid, made up of mostly - you guessed it - water. Within that interstitial fluid is metabolic waste that needs to be transported back to the blood stream in order to be filtered through the kidneys. Massage is moving this fluid around, and causing everything to happen at a faster rate. An increased amount of metabolic waste is being processed and filtered through the kidneys, which makes them work harder and is also using more water. If you have ever experienced a feeling of nausea, headache, or flu-like symptoms after a massage, it is due to the increased amount of metabolic waste being transported out. Drinking more water after your massage can help reduce those symptoms, or even prevent them from happening.
Listen to your Elements Massage Therapist when they encourage you to drink lots of water after your massage. Drinking caffeine-free green, chamomile, and other herbal teas are great for the added anti-oxidant boost to help you stay relaxed in mind and soul and help your body do its best, effortlessly.