Mythbusting – Massage Therapy and Toxins
I have frequently been told after getting a massage that I should “drink lots of water to help flush the toxins.” This statement is based on the belief that massage therapy will somehow draw toxins out of your cells and deposit them into your bloodstream. The people who promote this theory believe that by drinking more water, you would increase the filtration rate of your blood, thus flushing the toxins. This is not correct. Massage DOES NOT increase the amount of “toxins” in the blood stream, and drinking more water does not significantly increase the filtration rate of your blood.
Massage Therapy has many positive benefits for the body. It has been shown to decrease anxiety (1), to decrease the perception of pain (2), and to increase local circulation (3). I was unable to find any credible research that suggests massage has any effect on cellular metabolism. As part of cellular metabolism, waste products are created and eliminated from the cell. In order for a massage to increase the transportation of these waste products into the blood stream, a massage would have to increase the rate at which a cell functions. Massage being a passive, generally comfortable pressure on the skin is unlikely to alter the metabolic rate of your cells.
The actual “flushing” of metabolites from the bloodstream is accomplished by the kidneys and liver. It has been shown in many studies that increasing water intake does not increase the filtration rate of the kidneys (4). Both the kidneys and the liver are controlled by complex processes that involve various hormones, and increasing the amount of water consumed will not significantly affect their rate of filtration.
Although science has disproven the need to drink more water after a massage, water is good for you. If you are thirsty after a massage, drink water, just don’t expect it to flush your imaginary toxins away.
(1) Esther Mok, Chin Pang Woo, The effects of slow-stroke back massage on anxiety and shoulder pain in elderly stroke patients, Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery,
Volume 10, Issue 4, 2004, Pages 209-216,
(2) Lee, S.-H., Kim, J.-Y., Yeo, S., Kim, S.-H., & Lim, S. (2015). Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy on Cancer Pain. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 297–304. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735415572885
(3) Wiltshire, E. V., Poitras, V., Pak, M., Hong, T., Rayner, J., & Tschakovsky, M. E. (2009). Massage Impairs Post Exercise Muscle Blood Flow and "Lactic Acid" Removal. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 1. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3181c9214f
(4) Anastasio P, Cirillo M, Spitali L, Frangiosa A, Pollastro RM, De Santo NG: Level of hydration and renal function in healthy humans. Kidney Int 60 : 748 –756, 2001