Sports Massage Therapy

Can a Sports Massage Release Toxins and Make You Sick?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson March 14, 2022
Sports massage on upper back

It is still widely thought, both by massage therapists and clients, that massage therapy releases toxins into the bloodstream, but is this true, and can it make clients sick? In this article, we discuss whether or not massage flushes toxins from the body, and if this can make clients sick, as well as discussing other potential side effects of sports massage. 

So, can a sports massage release toxins and make you sick? Massage does not release, remove or flush toxins from the body and, as such, cannot make clients sick. Clients do, however, commonly experience flu-like symptoms after massage as a result of the body trying to repair the muscles, but this is not related to toxins in any way. 

Read on to learn more about sports massage, toxins, and massage-related illness. 

Can a Sports Massage Release Toxins?

The idea that massage releases, removes or flushes toxins from the body is a myth. The body has its own effective ways of removing toxins, and massage can do no more than improving circulation to aid this. Experts suggest that massage improves circulation, therefore helping any toxins present in the bloodstream to reach the liver and kidneys more effectively. 

However, some massage therapists relate the flushing of toxins to metabolic waste, specifically lactic acid. 

Does Massage Get Rid of Lactic Acid?

There is a large focus on lactic acid when discussing whether or not massage can remove toxins, but lactic acid is not, by definition, a toxin. Lactic acid naturally occurs within the body. In fact, lactic acid is produced as part of the glycolysis process, helping glucose to continue to break down when oxygen is in short supply (e.g. during or after exercise). 

Toxin or not, massage does not remove lactic acid from muscles. However, about an hour post-exercise, there will usually be no lactic acid left in the muscle anyway, as part of the lactic acid cycle

Some research actually claims that massage may hinder the lactic acid cycle, meaning that lactic acid cannot leave muscles properly. Although, many elite athletes regularly use sports massage shortly after training and competition, therefore any such negative effects are likely minor. 

Should I Drink Water After a Massage?

Various institutions stipulate that clients should drink plenty of water after a massage in order to flush out toxins. However, this is not true; massage does not flush toxins into the bloodstream, and water would not help if it did. Drinking plenty of water may help to remove toxins via urination or sweat, but not in relation to massage. 

However, drinking plenty of water has a whole range of positive health benefits, to which clients would benefit from after a massage (or indeed at any time of day). 

If you’re interested in detoxification associated with various health interventions, learn more about the phenomenon in our recent blogs on whether or not the body detoxes after acupuncture, and if a deep tissue massage can cause flu-like symptoms.

Can the Toxins Released During a Massage Make You Sick?

As we have already determined, massage does not release, remove, or flush toxins from the body, therefore it cannot make clients sick. However, deep tissue and sports massage is known to sometimes cause flu-like symptoms. This is called Post Massage Soreness & Malaise (PMSM), and symptoms tend to include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle soreness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Some massage therapists attribute PMSM to the flushing of toxins, however Western medicine offers an alternative explanation. Sports massage and deep tissue massage  often leaves the muscles feeling sore, a feeling akin to DOMS, and when muscles are sore, the immune system naturally activates T-Cells to try to repair the muscles. It is this response that is thought to make clients feel sick after massage. 

Why Do I Feel Worse After a Sports Massage?

Whilst clients will not become sick after a sports massage as a result of toxins, it is common to feel worse for a little while with side effects such as: 

  • Muscle soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Usually, these side effects of sports massage are minor, mild, and are nothing of concern. They will typically subside on their own within a few days. 

Learn more about why some clients feel worse after sports massage, and why they sometimes hurt so much in our recent blog. We take a dive into what it is about sports massage and deep tissue massage that has such an impact on the body.

Final Thoughts

Sports massage, and massage in general, does not work to remove toxins from the body. As such, this cannot make clients sick. There is, however, support in the community for the idea that massage improves circulation which, in turn, may make the body’s natural methods of toxin removal (e.g. liver and kidneys) more effective. 

That being said, massage can make clients sick with Post Massage Soreness & Malaise. This is fairly common after sports massages and deep tissue massages, and typically causes flu-like symptoms. As such, it is likely PMSM that makes clients sick, not the release of toxins. 

Despite this, sports massage offers a wide range of benefits to clients. At Breeze Academy, we offer Level 3 and Level 4  CPD courses in Sports Massage Training to help you begin your journey and gain both the knowledge and understanding required to plan, provide and evaluate sports massage therapy. Take a look at our courses online today, or get in touch for more information. 

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