Friday, March 23, 2012

Hydration is the Key

Yesterday I got a 90 minute massage, which was the first massage I've had in about a month. It was pretty deep work- very thorough in the back and surprisingly effective in my lats. Deeper massage, especially in the latissimus dorsi attachments almost always leaves me a bit sore the next day. Consequently, I started thinking about water.

It is common practice for massage therapists to advise their clients to drink extra water after receiving a massage to flush out toxins and minimize soreness. The contradiction in this practice is that LMT's, at least in Florida, are not allowed to prescribe any treatments to anybody at home. For example, I can show someone a stretch for the pecs using the door frame, but I cannot say something like, "Once the stretch produces pressure at a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale, hold the stretch for 30 seconds, 4 times per day." That's way too specific. A physical therapist or an athletic trainer could "prescribe" a stretch in that way, with no doubt that it's within their scope of practice.

Likewise, it's gray area when someone asks me how much water they should drink. To be the most legal, I should frame it in terms of what most people do based on medical recommendations. Such as, "The Mayo Clinic suggests that an '...adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day' regarding a '...healthy adult living in a temperate climate...'"

Additionally, states that "the amount of water you need can change every day, based on your physical activity, the weather, and even your current health condition." Since Florida is usually not a "temperate" kind of state, you probably need more water than the average Mayo Clinic follower. Check out this handy online calculator to decipher how much water you need today based on weather, health, fluid demands, and exercise.

It is possible to drink too much water, which is why us lowly massage therapists aren't supposed to be doling out nutritional recommendations to our clients. According to Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D. (doctorate of philosophy in biomedical sciences from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville), "The kidneys of a healthy adult can process fifteen liters of water a day! You are unlikely to suffer from water intoxication, even if you drink a lot of water, as long as you drink over time as opposed to intaking an enormous volume at one time." I guess that explains why we give tiny Dixie cups of water after a massage...

Scientific American Magazine states that "Making up about 66 percent of the human body, water runs through the blood, inhabits the cells, and lurks in the spaces between. At every moment water escapes the body through sweat, urination, defecation or exhaled breath, among other routes. Replacing these lost stores is essential but rehydration can be overdone. There is such a thing as a fatal water overdose." They go on to list several individual cases of water drinking related deaths. That leads us to a fundamental health tenant: Balance.

After a massage, there are increased levels of "toxins" in the blood, which have been pushed out of the muscle and connective tissues- stuff like lactic acid, and other by-products of anaerobic cellular respiration. According to, "If this acid builds up, muscular pain and cramping result." Which is why many people get the massage in the first place. To balance out the blood chemistry we need to keep the proportions of plasma to solutes even. "Plasma, which is 90 percent water, makes up 55 percent of blood volume," according to American Blood Centers.

The moral of the story seems to be, in this case, that drinking more water after a massage is in fact important, but don't drink too much too fast. Balance of salts, minerals, and fluid in the blood stream needs to be maintained for optimal health, whether you are getting massage or not.

Just for fun...this guy says you can get 19% stronger from drinking water and regularly maintaining hydration:

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if mgmt really considered all this before making a decison on those o-so-cute Dixie cups! ;)