Does massage flush toxins? What about lactic acid?. This is for massage clients and therapists: What are these "toxins" that you've heard about, and can massage flush them out? Do you have lactic acid crystals in your muscles causing pain? Spoiler: All of these are massage myths.
0:53 Does massage flush toxins?
1:15 Does massage increase circulation?
2:28 Can blood become stagnant?
2:50 Do my muscles have lactic acid crystals?
3:30 What's that "crunchy" feeling in my muscles?
4:00 Why do massage therapists talk about toxins?
5:06 Why am I in pain after a massage?
For massage therapists:
6:40 What are some actual toxins?
7:40 How does the body deal with toxins?
9:16 Can massage detoxify the body?
9:40 Lactic acid as a useful resource
11:22 Why we should drop "toxins"
If you're a massage client, it's possible that your massage therapist has told you that you're having all sorts of toxins flushed out (usually lactic acid) during your sessions, and that you need to drink plenty of water to keep from feeling sore the next day.
This is false, and it's based on the idea that massage somehow increases circulation in a unique way, or that there are congested areas in your muscles where old/toxic blood is pooling. The fact is that, unless you have a circulatory problem, your body is exceptionally good at keeping your blood chemistry in balance. Lactic acid is recycled almost immediately, and any other potentially toxic chemicals are dealt with by your liver, kidneys, lymph nodes, and blood enzymes. Your muscles are constantly being flushed and replenished, and you don't need external intervention to ensure that (with some exceptions, such as for people with limited mobility or circulatory problems; these still won't result in crystals accumulating in your muscles!).
If your massage therapist tells you that you experience soreness or sickness because of your own body's toxins, they're passing along a myth. The more likely explanation is that they did too much, too soon, and that they need to be less aggressive in future massages.
Massage therapists: It's time to drop the lactic acid thing. Lactate is a natural metabolic intermediary, forming the bridge between anaerobic and aerobic respiration. It is immediately recycled when oxygen is available, or, in the case of a large excess, will be whisked away by your circulation to be turned into glucose. We only excrete it in cases of extreme hyperlactatemia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC137458/
Even in cases of huge jumps in serum lactate (after lots of sprinting, for instance), the body is able to return the levels to normal within hours: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769631/ (this article is a great primer for current information on lactate and exercise).
So, let's give lactic acid a rest for a while. Pain is complicated, and massage isn't all about affecting the structure of our clients' bodies. I'd like for us to inform our clients about their physiology, but we should be tentative when we're talking about the causes of pain.
Let me know what you think, and what you'd like to see next! If you'd like to see my rant on "knots," check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMhIw4yr5s8
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