There are several reasons massage therapists recommend drinking water after a massage session. And there are many different “answers” they will give as to why. However, I’m here to clarify once and for all the “TRUTH” behind this steadfast advice.
- The easiest reason is simply that water is one of the most obvious good things you can give your body, yet somehow most of us get dehydrated pretty often and could use a helpful reminder to drink more.
The body is about 60% water. Water makes up the inside of cells and the outside. Water is necessary for all metabolic processes, transportation of nutrients and wastes, and as lubrication for joints, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. So whether you are healing from an injury or feeling stiffness from a chronic issue, supplying your body with more water can help it carry out all these necessary functions.
The commonly suggested amount to drink is half your body weight in ounces every day. So since I weigh about 140 lbs, I should drink about 70 oz. a day, which I usually think of as at least 2 Nalgene bottles. However, many factors impact this amount, such as being really active on a hot day, or drinking diuretics (which make you pee out more water) like coffee, tea, alcohol, and soda. Therefore, when determining how much water to drink, it’s easiest to just assume you should always drink more.
Here’s a couple more things to think about as you figure out how much water to drink :
- The more your tissue feels like that of a child—soft and full—the more hydrated it is. If it feels more like that of a really old person, it’s probably dehydrated. Feel a part of your body that you know you hold a lot of stress or tension in. Does it feel like an 8-year-old’s flesh or an 80-year-old’s?
- It’s very hard to drink too much water. However, if you are beating yourself up to drink those 2 Nalgene bottles a day, you can’t stand the thought of drinking any more water, or you find yourself peeing every 5 minutes, you’re probably hydrated enough for now.
- On top of all that, drinking water after massage is particularly beneficial because it can aid in the effectiveness of the session. A common misconception is that this is to “flush toxins” that were “released” during the massage. However, our current physiologic understanding of the effects of massage does not support this reasoning. Alternatively, one can think of drinking water to rehydrate the tissues and fill the spaces created during the massage.
Much of massage work is aimed at breaking up adhesions, “knots,” places where fascia has become stuck together, and increasing the pliability of tissues, helping fluids move more freely. But what’s to keep those tissues from simply re-sticking to each other once you get off the table and leave? You can help prolong the effects of massage by keeping the tissues well lubricated: drinking plenty of water, stretching and moving with variety, and adjusting what you can in your life to help your body retain its softness and elasticity.
Of course, like many of the theories behind massage and medicinal practices in general, this idea ought to be more thoroughly studied. However, it is more soundly backed by today’s scientific knowledge of tissue behavior than the claims about releasing “toxins.” We also know that the body functions better when well supplied with what it needs, making it safe to assume that drinking water can only help with one’s goals for health.
- Ultimately, the “real answer” is this: massage therapists aren’t licensed to provide advice about nutrition or medication, but we can talk about water, so we do! And after reading all the above information, why wouldn’t we? Water is the most important nutrient or medicine there is.