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If you’ve ever had a massage before, you’re probably familiar with the idea that massage can help release toxins from your body. But is this really true? And, if so, what toxins are released after massage exactly?
When it comes to this common misconception, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support normal massage techniques for releasing toxins. But it’s not as simple as you might think.
Keep reading to learn more about how massage might affect toxins in the body, which toxins are released, and which types of massage have the most potential for this elusive massage benefit.
Let’s get started!
- Unveiling the Toxins: What Toxins Are Released During Massage?
- The Mechanics of Massage: How Does Massage Release Toxins?
- After the Release: Navigating Toxins After Massage
- Optimal Techniques: Top 3 Massages to Release Toxins
- Do Massage Guns Aid Toxin Release?
- Toxins and Massage – Final Thoughts
Unveiling the Toxins: What Toxins Are Released During Massage?
While it might be easy to jump to conclusions about the role of massage in toxin release from the body, if we want to come to a full understanding of the situation we’ll need to talk about the ways in which massage could help with toxin release.
Of course, we should start by mentioning that the American Massage Therapy Association clearly states that the idea of “squeezing” toxins out of muscles and soft tissue during massage is a myth1. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s worth talking about what’s probably actually happening during a massage.
Throughout your day, many of the tissues in your body are constantly accepting nutrients from your bloodstream and releasing waste products as part of their natural metabolism. Because of this, the tissues of your body are typically releasing waste products and toxins at a regular rate – and that’s a very good thing for your health!
What this really means is that the waste products or “toxins” being released during a massage are probably no different from what’s being released on any normal day.
Now, let’s get into the details of this process a little bit more.
The Mechanics of Massage: How Does Massage Release Toxins?
When it comes to techniques like deep tissue massage, we know that the pressure applied to the tissues of your body causes an increase in circulation, which means more nutrients going in and more waste coming out. In theory, this also means an increased rate of toxin release from the tissues being massaged.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the waste products or “toxins” being released are any different from those that would normally be released with normal blood circulation in the body, it’s just more likely that they’re being released faster due to pressure from massage.
Your body does a very good job at regulating toxins on its own, and most waste products or toxins being released into the bloodstream are likely going to be removed by organs like your liver and kidneys quickly2, so there’s very little to worry about!
Okay, but why do so many people feel tired or sick after a thorough massage, and what can you do to minimize those side effects?
Regardless of whether or not toxins are truly being released from muscle and soft tissue during a massage, many people report feeling drained, tired, or slightly ill after their treatment. This can be due to a number of factors, but some of the most likely are circulation, hydration, and inflammation proteins.
As mentioned earlier, circulation is affected by massage because nutrients and waste products are being cycled through tissues more quickly. While these changes in circulation are only temporary, they can contribute to symptoms such as a headache.
There’s no denying that massage affects hydration, and changes in hydration can impact how well our body functions. When you’re not well hydrated you may feel weak, lightheaded, or tired. Overall, this is probably the biggest reason many people feel sick after a massage.
Inflammatory proteins are an important part of your body’s natural healing process. Increased amounts of inflammatory proteins can contribute to an immune system response that feels very similar to when your body is fighting an infection.
To minimize the impact of these side effects, here are a few tips to better manage them:
- Avoid exercising after your massage – this is because exercise results in further changes in circulation, hydration, and inflammation that can worsen these symptoms.
- Stay hydrated before and after your massage – since massage can lead to dehydration, maintaining normal hydration and blood volume will help offset hydration-related symptoms.
- Limit alcohol consumption – because alcohol impairs liver function, it can slow down your body’s ability to clear circulating waste products and toxins from the blood effectively, making post-massage side effects worse or longer-lasting.
Optimal Techniques: Top 3 Massages to Release Toxins
By this point, hopefully we’ve made it clear that toxin release during a massage is an often misunderstood concept that should be talked about with a certain level of skepticism. For that reason, the best massage to release toxins is likely just better able to promote circulation of blood and lymph through the body.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few massage techniques worth mentioning that are more likely to play a role in releasing toxins compared to others:
This type of massage is designed to increase the circulation of lymph throughout your body3, which is a fluid your body uses to carry many different waste products or toxins.
By focusing on a more gentle massage approach, lymphatic massage may be the best massage to release toxins.
Related Massage Gun for Lymphatic Drainage – Worth Using? Which One To Choose?
Deep Tissue Massage
Although less gentle than lymphatic massage, deep tissue massage is designed to get maximal circulation through muscles and soft tissue using large amounts of pressure.
As a means of increasing circulation through tissues and potentially clearing waste faster, deep tissue massage easily earns our second spot.
Related Best Deep Tissue Massage Guns – Our Experts Weigh In
Because cupping massage makes use of a suction device to “lift” muscle and soft tissue layers, it has very big potential for enhancing circulation and clearing of waste products in a targeted area.
While cupping isn’t as popular as deep tissue massage, it can be combined to get maximum benefit.
Related We’ve covered a couple of cutting-edge cupping devices on our blog that are truly game-changers. Give them a look:
Do Massage Guns Aid Toxin Release?
Let’s face it, many of us don’t have access to a personal massage therapist on a regular basis. This is where massage guns come in! Massage guns are devices that make use of a percussing head to create a massage that can be fully customized and controlled by the user.
For this reason, tools like massage guns have become incredibly popular for accessing the health and wellness benefits of a massage from home. Here at MassageGunAdvice, we’re experts in all things massage guns, and we’ve personally tested hundreds of devices to help you take the guesswork out of finding the best massage gun for your needs.
While we can’t say for sure that massage guns directly aid in toxin release, we can say that it’s possible to get many of the same effects from a massage gun that you would get from a traditional or deep tissue massage4,5.
This can be a total game changer for many people because it removes the access barrier we often face to get a quality massage when we need it.
While your needs may vary based on things like your health history, weight, size, and response to massage gun devices, rest assured that there are many well-designed devices available to help you enjoy many massage benefits from the comfort of your own home.
TIP The best place to start exploring all the massage gun content we have is our best massage gun guide, which we encourage you to check out now.
Toxins and Massage – Final Thoughts
When it comes to the common question “what toxins are released after massage?” it can be hard to find good answers. Hopefully by now you feel better prepared to answer this question and make the most out of your future massages.
While massage isn’t really a home run for toxin release, it can clearly have an impact on the metabolism of our muscles and tissues. On top of that, certain techniques like lymphatic and deep tissue massage may have more potential for clearing certain types of waste from the body.
If you’re curious about the different ways a massage gun can benefit your overall health and wellness, be sure to check out some of our expert reviews to learn more.
Here are some of the most common questions around massage and toxin release:
Can toxins released during massage make you sick?
While the effects of a massage will vary between people, it is possible to feel sick after a massage. This is likely due to a combination of changes in blood circulation, increased presence of inflammation proteins in the blood, and sudden changes in hydration causing an immune system response. However, it is unlikely that this phenomenon is a direct response to a particular toxin or pathogen.
How does massage flush out toxins?
Although a massage cannot definitively flush out toxins, certain types of massage are thought to assist your body’s lymphatic system in clearing waste products from the body by pumping muscles and fascia. However, it is very unlikely that massage can be used to remove any particular chemicals from the body, or that there are toxin-related health benefits to massage outside of this potential example.
How long does it take for toxins to get released after a massage?
Because your body moves blood through the circulatory system very quickly, it is likely that any toxins potentially released from tissues during massage will be quickly taken into the bloodstream and then filtered out by other organs, such as the liver and kidneys. In theory, this entire process would take a few minutes to a few hours based on normal human physiology, the type of toxin, and the amount of waste product being removed from the blood.
- 1.Brown Menard, PhD, LMT M. Myths, Massage and Research How massage therapists can help separate fact from “massage lore.” American Massage Therapy Association. https://www.amtamassage.org/publications/massage-therapy-journal/myths-in-massage-research/
- 2.Kalra A, Yetiskul E, Wehrle C. Physiology, Liver [Last Update: May 1, 2023]. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535438/
- 3.Thompson B, Gaitatzis K, Janse de, Blackwell R, Koelmeyer L. Manual lymphatic drainage treatment for lymphedema: a systematic review of the literature. J Cancer Surviv. 2021;15(2):244-258. doi:10.1007/s11764-020-00928-1
- 4.Konrad A, Glashüttner C, Reiner M, Bernsteiner D, Tilp M. The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles’ Range of Motion and Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(4):690-694. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33239942
- 5.Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef M. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):133-136. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971
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Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS
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