Massage and the hydration equation

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Once considered to be a luxury of the rich and famous, massage therapy has taken a quantum leap in the past two decades and is currently believed to be a beneficial adjunct to regular athletic workouts. You train hard, eat clean, take a weekly rest day from resistance training, and still your body remains sore and overly fatigued. Treating yourself to quiet time, dim lighting, soft spa music and a full body massage can relieve many of life’s daily stressors. However, there is more to consider than merely booking an appointment between work and carpool schedules.

Many massage therapists will suggest that clients drink plenty of water prior to the time of their appointment. This request transcends mere thirst; it actually allows for a more satisfying and effective deep-tissue massage session. When muscles and body tissues are well hydrated, they become more pliable and easier to manipulate.  In addition, inadequate fluid in the body renders the blood “thicker,” and the muscle fibers tend to become “sticky,” much like rubbery spaghetti. This situation can cause the body’s toxins to become stuck within the muscle tissue, often leading to headaches and a feeling of soreness.  A prime example of such toxin build-up is that “stitch in the side” we have all experienced after an intense workout or run, which is an accumulation of a toxin known as lactic acid. 

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, consuming adequate water after a massage is also crucial.  Manipulating deep muscle tissue releases toxins, and water facilitates the pancreas and kidneys’ abilities to optimally process these waste products.   Considering that a mere 2 percent drop in a body’s appropriate hydration level can induce a cascade of symptoms such as fatigue, achiness, and a lack of mental acuity, it is no wonder that many clients often feel bruised after a massage.

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Water allows the circulatory system to work smoothly. This, in turn, helps the lymphatic system, which is actively involved in the body’s ability to fight off and rid itself of infections. Aiding in the overall elimination process, hydration is also a key element in ensuring adequate perspiration and respiration.  Blood returns to an optimal volume, enabling muscle fibers to separate, and the body is then able to deliver nutrients to the muscle tissues. Nurtured muscles attain peak performance with less soreness and fatigue.

Since such a high percentage of the human body’s composition is water, it comes as no surprise that hydration is a vital element in good health.  Massage therapy is a wonderful way to complement athletic endeavors. By ensuring that adequate fluid intake occurs both before and after a massage session, you are bound to reap more benefits than merely a detoxification of your spirit and soul.