So What is the Relationship Between Water and Massage?
Water! H2O! 70 percent of our bodies are comprised of it. It is such a vital part of our existence. It is the very basis of life as we know it. We can go weeks without eating food and our body will slowly waste away but we must replenish our fluids every day or death becomes a harsh reality quickly. We all know to replenish our fluids after any kind of workout or exertion and as massage therapists we are trained to always offer water after a massage. We have been trained to explain that our body during a massage uses so much of our water to facilitate increased blood flow and toxins removal that we have not really taken into account scientifically some of the mechanics at work and not at work.
A recent client asked me why she was so dehydrated after a massage and I answered by rote, that the dehydration stemmed from her body’s water supply being directed to her cells to nourish them as they worked so hard to expedite blood flow and toxin removal. Before I proceed any further, it is necessary to point out that the pragmatist in me decided to research the answer further. My findings were not shocking but enlightening and some that I think are important to point out before we automatically assume that what we say and advertise about massage can be scientifically supported. So without further ado and giving credit to Dr. Keith Eric Grant here goes… the toxins we speak of such as pollutants and heavy metals are too chemically bound to their targets to be significantly freed by simple massage mechanics. Now, are we to drop our heads in shame and feel like we have been told a big lie and wonder how we move on from here? No! And I will explain in simplest terms why.
We became legitimate licensed massage therapists because we wanted to help. We wanted to aid in the healing process. Drum roll please: WE DO! We aid in the bodies balance or homeostasis because it is through these same simple massage mechanics that we assess, release and relieve hypertonic muscles which tend to place muscular pressure on surrounding nerve and vascular tissues. By helping the body attain equilibrium, massage also helps reduce the need for oxygen and energy and slows down the production of wasteful metabolites. In other words, the massage decreases our levels of stress hormone cortisol and sends the body into a relaxed state in which the muscles that had been previously firing on all cylinders are recalibrated to idle at a reasonable and comfortable rate. It is sometimes such a dramatic change that some people may respond to the massage with a temporary malaise or fatigue which is why we offer water and advise anyone after a massage to take their time getting up less they experience (nerd alert: orthostatic tension) or in lay person’s terms wooziness from arising too quickly.
So by all means continue to offer water after a massage. It is integral to the healing tissues and through the natural process of osmosis aids in the flushing out of harmful toxins in the body. So there you have it: not by mechanical means as we have been taught but by assisting in the chemical process have we helped balance the nature of cell growth and recovery and aided in our clients physical and mental well-being. Now if you excuse me, I am going to get myself a big ‘ol glass of water.