By Amie Donlan, Remedial Therapist
If you have ever had a massage from me, or any other therapist for that matter, then one of the phrases you have almost certainly heard at some point is “make sure you drink plenty of water over the next few days.” It’s not just a helpful tip from a friendly face, it actually relates a lot to your treatment. Let’s delve a little deeper.
First off, regardless of having a massage, you should be drinking water anyway, and probably more than you already are. Most people don’t drink enough. Plain old, pure water is what it needs to be. None of this “well, there is water in my coffee, so that counts” (or any other daily drinks of yours). Look it’s a coffee from the 4064 boys next door, we might let that slide - but make sure you’re topping up the H2O levels accordingly.
SOME SCIENCY STUFF COMING UP… Just how much should you be drinking? There are Nutrient Reference Values advising that adult men should drink 2.6 litres of water per day (about 10 cups) and adult women should drink 2.1 litres per day (about eight cups). But these figures are based on the average weight of men and women, so if you’re under or overweight you may consider adjusting your water intake. A general rule of thumb is approx. 35 millilitres of fluid per kilogram of body weight.
Now that you know how much you should be drinking, how does it relate to massage? First I will talk about healthy vs unhealthy muscle tissue. When your muscles are healthy (hydrated) they feel soft, almost spongy and allows blood to flow freely throughout the vessels. Unhealthy (dehydrated) muscle tissue is the type that is causing you pain. It is tight, feeling more compact and restricted in movement. What this also means is it also restricts the amount of blood flow and lymphatic drainage through the tissue (by constricting the capillaries). If you are not getting a good amount of blood flow through an area, this decreases oxygen and nutrient exchange, as well as allowing metabolic waste to build up and become stuck within the tissue. Our bodies are the bloody masters of adaptation, and because of this your blood will go find other, less restricted paths around this area.
When you are having a thorough, deep tissue massage, these areas of restriction and muscle tension are usually the key focal points. The massage therapist is working to break down the adhesion’s that have formed in the unhealthy tissue and BOOM, allowing increased blood flow, increased movement, and restore the muscle to a much more healthy state. STAY WITH ME… What happens when you open up these areas is that the metabolic waste that had been trapped due to lack of blood flow is now released and on its way out through the lymphatic system. Nutrients and oxygen are being delivered to the muscle at a faster rate, and this all uses water from your bloodstream, which may give you a feeling of dehydration, or thirst. Similar to why you need more water when working out, your muscles are using more oxygen, and water is necessary for this exchange (so it gets used up faster). An increased amount of metabolic waste is being processed and filtered through the kidneys, which makes them have to work harder and is also using… more water.
If you have ever experienced feeling slightly nauseous, developed a headache, or flu-like symptoms after a massage, this is mainly due to the increased amount of metabolic waste being transported out. Drinking more water after your massage can help reduce those symptoms, or even stop it from happening.
So, it is true you should drink water after massage in order to re-hydrate because your body is using water at a faster rate, but the key is to be drinking enough water EVERYDAY, whether you get a massage or not. Water is vital for every function that occurs in the body, and necessary to maintain healthy, hydrated muscle tissue.