Filtering by Tag: lactic acid
So you’ve just come back from vacation where you had your fair share of wine and delicious food. Should you detox with a juice cleanse? Or perhaps a massage will flush these toxins from your body?
Many health-minded people are seeking new ways to not only jump start their health, but also undo prior damage that poor diet, air pollutants and bad habits can do to their bodies. With the general rise of being more health conscious, there has also been an increase in the idea of “detoxing,” or removing toxins from our bodies with diet, cleanses and even foot pads that pull the toxins out from the soles of the feet. Some massage therapists claim that massage can help flush toxins from your body.
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 massage as well.
While there are plenty of health benefits to massage, it’s not because of its ability to rid your body of toxins. This post is 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?”
Before we jump into whether or not massage releases toxins, let’s take a look at what “toxins” really are. They sound scary— like something you should definitely try to avoid or get rid of at all costs. But toxins are just a normal part of life, and, like anything else, in small doses they are perfectly fine.
Perhaps what it is that people truly fear are not “toxins” but “poisons,” which are two very different things. Poisons are any harmful substance, but it’s important to remember that many things in too-large of a dose can then be considered a poison- even your daily multivitamin.
Toxins are a kind of subset of poisons in the way that they are poisons produced by living things. Technically speaking, drinking scotch, getting a massage and hard exercise all produce toxins, but these toxins are just part of how our bodies metabolize, rebuild and process on a daily basis. With moderation and careful attention, all are completely harmless.
Your doctor wouldn’t recommend that you give up your exercise routine to avoid toxins and therefore any toxins created by massage certainly aren’t harmful either.
What most people hope to cleanse from their bodies during a massage aren’t poisons, and they aren’t toxins (which naturally occur in our bodies as part of how they function), but rather pollutants. This can be anything from smog particles (and other air pollutants that we inhale), to lead or pesticides, which are definitely harmful to our bodies when we get too much exposure. These aren’t things that we can “detox” from, but they are things to avoid when you can.
No, Massage Doesn’t Cleanse Your Body of Toxins
In truth? Your body does a pretty great job of flushing out toxins all on its own. If you are in good health, your kidneys, liver and intestines should already be doing a great job of removing toxins. Outside of very rare occasions (like over consumption of drugs or alcohol), your body doesn’t need extra help detoxing. It just needs time to do what it does best. The hangover caused by a great bottle share is really only cured by time.
Massage “detoxes” and other types of detoxes— like juice cleanses— don’t really do much to release toxins from your body. This is a myth. In fact, many of these juice cleanses are actually just crash diets with major caloric deficits that can leave you feeling weak, sluggish, and tired. And furthermore, some of these cleanses are just depleting your gut of healthy bacteria… but that’s a whole different blog post.
On the other hand, some people might fear that getting a massage, especially a deep tissue massage, might actually be toxic; that the toxins released can be harmful to your body. There is some truth to this - kind of.
If you’ve experienced an intense, deep-tissue massage that has left you feeling sore, tired or disoriented, what you’ve actually experienced is post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM). Excessive pressure like this can cause rhabdomyolysis, or “rhabdo,” which is the poisoning by proteins liberated from an injured muscle. This is only dangerous for extremely vulnerable clients, like the elderly or those with other health issues, especially renal issues.
If you work with an experienced, knowledgeable massage therapist, this should never be an issue. PMSM should only cause slight discomfort as a mild side effect of a strong massage, but for most of us, there’s no need to fear these kinds of natural toxins leaving your muscles.
The Water-Toxin Myth
You may have heard that it’s necessary to drink water after a massage because some massage therapists claim that getting a massage releases toxins directly into the bloodstream, and that the best way to flush them out is to drink plenty of water to encourage your kidneys and the rest of your digestive system to process these and remove them from your body.
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 if it did.
There are a lot of scientific reasons why this is the case (check out this article here), but know that massage doesn’t liberate these 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
Another common myth about massage? That massage is a great way to release 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 isn’t actually from lactic acid building up in your muscles, it’s what we call Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or 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 micro- tears. Unlike pulling on a rope that loses some of its strength, your muscles rebuild themselves and become larger and stronger.
Your muscles do create lactic acid, but this is something they do all the time, even when your body is at rest. So the idea that your muscles are sore from lactic acid buildup is false. When you exercise, your body needs fuel, and breaks down some of its stored energy to access that fuel, therefore becoming acidic. Within one hour of your workout, your body has reabsorbed all of the lactic acid in the tissue and sent it to the liver to be converted back into fuel. Pretty cool, huh?
That doesn’t mean you should give up your post-run massage! There are still plenty of benefits of a good sports massage. Your massage therapist can reduce the pain and stiffness after a hard workout, which moves blood and fluid around your body, helping to heal micro- trauma from your workout.
When you heavily work out a muscle group, it loses some of its flexibility and tenses up, making it easier to tear. A thorough sports massage eases this tension. It also reduces inflammation and swelling, and lessens fatigue, gearing you up to conquer your next race, Orange Theory workout or bike ride.
Other Benefits to Massage Therapy
Don’t worry. There are still plenty of reasons for regular massage and benefits to even the occasional massage. While massage is a great way to reduce stress and pamper yourself, there are major health perks as well. With massage, you can:
● Reduce stress hormones like cortisol
● Improve joint function & reduce pain with osteoarthritis
● Lessen muscle soreness after a hard workout
● Speed healing of overworked, sore muscles
● Reduce inflammation and help the muscle 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. Enjoy your massage and relish in the many benefits you’re receiving from your time on the table.