Does massage release toxins?
August 13, 2005 5:02 PM   Subscribe

My massage therapist always tells me "drink lots of water to get rid of the toxins released during the massage". Does anyone know of any evidence to support this claim? Any sites that debunk it?
posted by pornucopia to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, keeping hydrated at all times should make you feel better. Drinking lots of water (not to the point of renal failure, obviously) is always a great idea.
posted by wackybrit at 5:52 PM on August 13, 2005

Hmm. I have never heard of any way that tozins can be removed my massage. This report on Quackwatch is all about massage, and links to an article by a doubting massage school student.

I always get suspicious if things are just called "toxins". What kind of toxins?? My university toxiclogy professor used to emphasize that EVERYTHING is toxic, it just depends on how much of it you have in your body.
Did you know that arsenic is actually naturally present in the human body? And that's famous for being toxic! It's just not toxic at small amounts. My point: "toxins" can be absolutely ANYTHING.

But in any case: hydrating will always make you feel better, so it won't hurt you to drink water afterwards.
posted by easternblot at 5:54 PM on August 13, 2005

I also have heard that it's a more basic hydration issue. Proper hydration helps with many things, including recovery time from exercise and, i presume, massages. But as eastern pointed out, anything can be toxic on large doses, so don't overdo it on the DHMO.
posted by mystyk at 6:28 PM on August 13, 2005

I think it's safe to assume that whenever the word "toxins" is used in this context, it's 100% BS.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:31 PM on August 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've been told it has to do with the fact that with a massage, the lymphatic system is stimulated. The lymphatic system somewhat mirrors the circulatory system, and is the garbage pail, so to speak of the circulatory system. I found this link that may be useful:
posted by 6:1 at 8:21 PM on August 13, 2005

errr i wouldnt take "toxins" seriously. are they really trained for those kinds of things? just drink water cause its healthy.
posted by at 9:11 PM on August 13, 2005

Whenever someone advises you to do something or eat something in order to "remove toxins from your body" ask them which toxins are removed. They will not be able to answer, because if they knew they were talking about they wouldn't be talking about removing toxins.
posted by raaka at 9:43 PM on August 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

The 'toxin' they're usually talking about is myoglobin, which is a protein in skeletal and cardiac muscle. When the muscle is injured or crushed, myoglobin is released into the blood. Myoglobin is a cousin to hemoglobin, and is a sensitive marker for muscle injury. It also breaks down into components that are definitely toxic to the body.

It would take a really rough massage to cause huge amounts of myoglobin to be released, but it's better to be safe than sorry because too much myoglobin (or myoglobin breakdown) in the bloodstream can cause kidney failure in short order. That's why the massage therapist tells you to increase your fluid intake -- to ensure that the release of myoglobin, however small, is flushed from your system so it doesn't give your kidneys trouble.
posted by lambchop1 at 9:52 PM on August 13, 2005 [3 favorites]

What lambchop1 said is the only possible thing remotely close to the truth. That said, as far as I know (and as far as my pubmed search suggests), there is no published evidence of rhabdomyolysis following massage therapy. I believe there are a few case reports of rhabdo following very strenuous exercise though.

Of course, 90% of what massage therapists and chiropractors say isn't based on any scientific evidence so...
posted by drpynchon at 10:35 PM on August 13, 2005

What chuckforthought and (esp) raaka sez. Where was your massage therapist trained and what are their credentials?

To reiterate others, hydration is important - always. As for your lymphatics - unless the maseause (sp) is aiming to drain them - I wouldn't worry too much. Yes, it's the "garbage pail" of your circulatory system, but that's a *good* thing - your immune system, like kids, need to get educated and your lymphatics show your immune cells what to attack.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:41 AM on August 14, 2005

You should drink water, period. Drinking it before and after and making sure you're hydrated helps with muscle fatigue and stiffness anyway.

Anecdotal/empirical: If I wake up stiff or just generally feel creaky, it usually means I'm not properly hydrated. Drinking a bunch of water usually fixes it in under an hour, even without stretching.
posted by loquacious at 5:07 AM on August 14, 2005

What? They didn't tell you to take a bath in Epsom Salts too? (Dunno if this actually works, but my roommate used to get Zen body therapy and always did the Epsom Salt thing afterwards). I looked up Epsom salt baths on the web and it seems that Epsom salt is a Central Nervous System depressant when absorbed via the skin. So maybe even if it doesn't remove toxins, it will ease sore or strained muscles. (Zen body therapy is a version of Rolfing, which if you don't know is a particularly hard-core type of massage where the therapist is all sticking fingers underneath your ribcage and stuff to "move" muscles from where they are to where they should be. According to one of his books on the subject, a therapist was massaging a vietnam vet when the man started sweating out a noxious-smelling fluid. The man started crying and recalled for the first time his experiences in areas that had been treated with agent orange. So that's a toxin i guess, but again, this is all third hand evidence =)
posted by idontlikewords at 9:10 AM on August 14, 2005

One more cheer for hydration: when I got a very quick massage at a point in time when I was very well-hydrated, the masseuse asked me within a few minutes if I drank a lot of water. He could just tell by the feel of my muscles. Take what you will from this, but I always try to remember that when I'm not drinking enough water.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 5:18 PM on August 14, 2005

Did you know that arsenic is actually naturally present in the human body? And that's famous for being toxic! It's just not toxic at small amounts. My point: "toxins" can be absolutely ANYTHING.

'strue. calcium, pound for pound, is much more toxic than, say, cyanide.

maybe the masseuse is talking about the kind of toxins that idontlikewords alluded to. repressed memories and traumas are just that - repressed, meaning, they haven't actually gone anywhere. the information is still stored in your body, in a physical way. i can personally attest to physical massage having unexpected emotional (and physical) results.

i second the notion that since they didn't say anything more specific than "toxins," they don't really know what they're talking about - but sometimes people can be right about something just by casting a wide enough net.
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:55 PM on August 14, 2005

calcium, pound for pound, is much more toxic than, say, cyanide.

FYI, this is absolutely a totally false statement. Toxic levels of cyanide are on the order of 0.1 mmol/L, which is about 100 times less than the serum calcium concentration in a healthy person.
posted by drpynchon at 9:50 PM on August 14, 2005

Funny, I spent a lot of time with a German massage therapist, and she never once suggested I needed to drink more water. I miss her terribly, she was good. Almost regret I learned to keep my neck under better control so I no longer needed her help.
posted by Goofyy at 2:48 AM on August 16, 2005

i stand corrected.

at any rate, calcium can be quite toxic.
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:04 AM on August 16, 2005

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