Why do I feel ill after my massage?

Healthy versus unhealthy muscle tissue

When you book in for a deep tissue massage you’re probably not concerned if your muscles are hydrated or dehydrated. If your muscles are in a healthy and hydrated state they feel soft and spongy which allows blood to circulate freely through the tissues and vessels. Unhealthy or dehydrated muscles are the tissues that usually cause you pain. They can feel tight, movement restricted and hard – often squeezing the capillaries enough to restrict the amount of blood flow and lymphatic drainage. If there’s not a healthy flow of blood getting through, tissues can be starved of vital oxygen and nutrient exchange. Metabolic waste can also build up and become stuck without the flushing effect of adequate blood flow.

Poisoned by massage

Rather than de-toxifying, the body, deep tissue massage can in the short term cause a slightly toxic situation in your body. If there is a significant number of unhealthy tissues present in your body your massage therapist will be working to break up the adhesions that have formed, allowing increased blood flow, movement and restoration of muscles to a healthier state. This allows the metabolic waste to get dumped, all at once, into the lymphatic system. The faster delivery of nutrients and oxygen and their resulting combustion can use up water from your bloodstream – which may leave you feeling thirsty or dehydrated. This combination can lead to your body’s immune system experiencing a toxic overload as the metabolic waste accumulates at a greater rate than the body can comfortably get rid of – making you feel icky!

Why do muscles dehydrate and become unhealthy – can massage help?

There are numerous factors that contribute to the body’s soft tissues becoming dehydrated, painful and stiff. Mostly living a sedentary lifestyle or being physically inactive are causes but it can also be triggered by the overuse of muscles during a new exercise regime, particularly after periods of inactivity. Sometimes when you are under physical, emotional or chemical stress, the lymphatic system can become stagnant and metabolic waste solidifies – congesting the surrounding moving parts. Deep tissue, sports and remedial massage focuses on breaking down crunchy adhesive knots to un-tie and free up the blood vessels to allow the supply of blood and removal of waste from your tissues.

Massage boosts your lymphatic system

Massage stimulates circulation and the removal of waste, generated from muscle metabolism, through the lymphatic system. Waste can also contain allergens, excess fat, viruses and bacteria. Metabolic waste accumulates around the cells in a liquid called interstitial fluid and needs to be transported back to the bloodstream to be filtered through the liver and kidneys. Massage pushes and moves this fluid around causing the body to require more water to flush out and process the releasing toxins. If your body is dehydrated it causes your liver and kidneys to work harder. You may experience a feeling of nausea, headache or flu-like symptoms as your body struggles to process the increased amount of metabolic waste.

Steps to prevent post-massage sickness

As the human body is mostly made up of water, the normal functioning of all the body’s systems is dependent on how hydrated we are. Most massage therapists will advise you to drink water after a massage. However, it is also advisable that you are hydrated before the session too. Drinking water in the hours before your massage will encourage the lymphatic system to instantly process and discharge metabolic waste through the organs preventing the overloading of toxins. It is essential to ask for a drink of water during your massage if you feel thirsty, as this will usually prevent a headache from occurring later – keeping you hydrated before the negative effects of dehydration set in. If you haven’t had a massage in a long time and you have previously experienced post-massage nausea, headaches or sickness it’s best to inform your therapist as often the application of lighter pressure can reduce the amount of waste discharged. You can then normally increase the pressure in subsequent massage sessions.

Massage can be a hugely enjoyable experience and can facilitate better functioning of the body and a greater sense of wellbeing. To get the most out of your massage sessions, aim to schedule them at a period of regularity that supports your lifestyle, health condition and environment. If you have previously suffered from an ill feeling after massage and are concerned about getting a massage again, please call us on 020 8166 8958. We may be able to discuss ways to prevent the same occurrence and tailor the treatment to suit your needs and body condition to get you feeling great again.