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By Ashley Zimmermann
*Disclaimer* As always, consult your licensed massage therapist or physician for medical advice. This article is not intended to treat, diagnose, or provide medical advice.
As a good rule of thumb, we should all make an effort to stay hydrated every day. Ideally, you will be hydrated before you go in for your massage, as you should throughout a typical day. USGS.gov's Water Science School quotes the following functions of water in the human body:
*Water acts as the building material of a cell
*Water regulates our internal body temperature
*Water transports carbohydrates and proteins in the bloodstream
*Water assists in flushing waste mainly through urination
*Water acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord and protects unborn babies in the womb
*Water forms saliva
*Water lubricates joints
Exactly how much water should you drink before your massage? ForYourMassageNeeds.com advises the following:
"... There is no set rule about how much water you should drink. But you need to be a well-hydrated while, of course, feeling comfortable. The best-case scenario is that you drink plenty of water daily as part of your healthy lifestyle. Trying to load up before a massage is a bad idea as you'll feel bloated and uncomfortable."
They also suggest: "Drink a large glass or two the day of the massage. Leave at least an hour before the massage without eating or drinking anything."
I can attest to this. There is nothing worse than the need to use the restroom in the middle of your massage. Don't overdo it right before your appointment. As mentioned, try to drink at least one glass of water before the session to hydrate your muscles. So drink at least one glass, but not necessarily right before your appointment.
Feel free to try a few of these suggestions and then decide what works for you and what doesn't.
I vividly remember the first few times I had a massage appointment at Picturesque when Dana emphasized how important it was to drink water after the massage; she even had a pitcher of water and a paper cup ready for me afterward. Since I'm not a healthcare practitioner, this notion didn't immediately make sense; I hadn't been sweating or exercising, so why was this post-massage cup of water so important?
Though I, the massage recipient, had not been doing any exerting activity (like cardio), the massage therapist had worked on me. During the massage, the therapist rubs, kneads, etc., which is like her 'working' my muscles for me. My muscles were still going through the motions. I didn't feel dehydrated, but I was due to the massage treatment. Practitioners may refer to this process as 'manipulation' of the muscles:
Medical Definition of manipulation: 1. The act, process, or an instance of manipulation, especially [of] a body part, by manual examination and treatment.
The most important reason to drink water after the massage is to rehydrate the muscles. All the working of the muscles during the massage dehydrates them, so this water needs to be replenished.
How many cups of water should you drink post-massage? The short answer: there is no set number. In my personal experience, I try to drink approximately a water bottle's worth of water once I get home from a session (or in the car), as I do after a gym workout. I am usually in a good habit of drinking water throughout the day, so I add a few extra cups to my normal intake. If you are unsure how much water you should be drinking, ask your massage therapist or doctor what they recommend.
As mentioned in one of our past blog posts, the recommended amount of water intake after a massage can also depend on the kind of work you have done. For example, if you had a relaxation massage session, you may want to drink a modest amount of water, but you might want to consider drinking more due to sweating if you had a deep tissue or a hot stone massage.
Drinking water post-session will also reduce the amount of soreness you experience. As mentioned above, massage can work the muscles and causes dehydration, similar to a workout. Hand & Stone says, "If your muscle cells are dehydrated and lack fluid, you won't feel as good as you could after your massage. Being properly hydrated reduces your risk of 'massage malaise.' And didn't you come for a massage in order to feel better?"
Fascia ties it all together
Drinking water hydrates the fascia, in addition to your muscles. What is fascia? The short answer: fascia is the connective tissue that exists throughout the entire body. Delos Therapy says, "Research has shown that when fascia becomes dehydrated, fascial planes can adhere together, preventing fluidity of movement and causing symptoms such as stiffness and pain." The body is a complex machine, and dehydration can cause all sorts of problems we might never consider on a daily basis.
What about 'Toxins'?
Massage Magazine and Return to Play Institute remind us that removing toxins is not a legitimate benefit of massage. Massage Magazine says, "Massage therapy has many benefits, but detoxification is not one of them." The myth that massage releases toxins from the body is prevalent. To explain, we will use Return to Play Institute's simple definition: "the word toxin is any substance in the body which someone believes should not be there – natural, environmental, chemical, or other."
Massage Mag lists three types of Body-Produced Waste Products: catabolic waste, metabolic waste, and digestive waste. Our bodies already have efficient systems for taking care of this waste, including exhaling carbon dioxide and having bowel movements. Many practitioners and clients swear by the "flushing toxins theory" but don't count on massage as a solution or cure. Though, as mentioned above by Water Science School, water does aid in flushing waste through urination, so drink that water!
https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body#:~:text=Up%20to%2060%25%20of%20the,bones%20are%20watery%3A%2031%25 - The Water in You: Water and the Human Body
https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school - Water Science School
https://foryourmassageneeds.com/much-water-drink-massage/ - How Much Water Should I Drink Before a Massage
https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/manipulation - manipulation
https://www.picturesquemassage.com/index.php?detail=6&list-driver-7 - How much water do I drink after a massage
https://handandstone.ca/the-importance-of-hydrating-before-and-after-massage/- The Importance of Hydrating Before and After Massage
https://delostherapy.com/water-iv-hydration-and-the-implications-for-tight-muscles/ - Water, IV Hydration And The Implications For Tight Muscles
https://www.massagemag.com/myths-massage-releases-toxins-87973/ - OLD MYTHS DIE HARD: THE TRUTH ABOUT TOXINS
https://www.returntoplayinstitute.com/2020/01/10/flushing-toxins-a-massage-myth/ - Flushing Toxins, A Massage Myth