Massage doesn’t flush out toxins!

I came across a well written blog post on the old belief that massage helps “flush out the toxins” and thus needing to drink lots of water after receiving massage.  I have long disliked this belief and have told my clients to drink water to maintain healthy hydration. Please read!

“Nope, I Don’t Know How To Remove Your Toxins”

This was posted by  Soothe Massage Therapy.

There are so, so many wonderful, researched ways massage therapy has been shown to enhance your general well-being. So many. And they are good ones.

  • Lower feelings of stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve your quality of sleep or sleep related disorders like narcolepsy
  • Provide comfort for those who are anxious or depressed
  • Encourage weight gain for prematurely born infants
  • Reduce the discomforts of pregnancy/post-partum period
  • Provide relief from a number of aches and pains from acute and chronic injuries
  • Multiple benefits for cardiac health
  • Complement treatment for headaches and migraines

It’s a good list. A really good list. But whenever I go over these reasons with family, friends, potential clients, current clients, I am almost always met with “AND, massage flushes my body of toxins! That’s why I have to drink water after a massage.” Believe it or not, there have been a number of heated debates over this. A number.

Here’s What Was Taught And Thought

So, for years and years, massage therapists would end a massage session with their clients typically by saying something like, “Now remember to drink lots of water today because you need to flush out all of the toxins we released,” or some such similar phrase. I can vouch for this. Over the roughly 18 years of receiving massage, I was told this time and time again. And I believed it. Not sure why. But I did and sometimes I drank lots of water and sometimes I didn’t. (Because I hate water. It does not taste like coffee. Yuck.) I don’t remember if I felt different or not. Honest.

But I do remember thinking that was odd. I wasn’t sure what the toxins were and I don’t remember them being discussed in Gross Anatomy lecture/cadaver lab at Boston University (Go Terriers!) and I did wonder from time to time why I didn’t drop dead from these toxins floating around aimlessly in my being. A few times I was told that lactic acid was the culprit because it didn’t belong in muscles and got stuck there. Seemed plausible. Even in sports writings (way back when) I had read and learned that lactic acid was Enemy Number One for muscles and caused muscle soreness. Because that’s what was taught at the time.

Times Changed What We Know To Be So

So remember reading in school that common teachings included such gems as the world is flat, phrenology dictated the psychological mappings of the brain and the World Wide Web would never catch on? Yeah. (Millions upon millions of cat memes have shown that last one to be false.) Time and knowledge bring change. Yes, change is…change. Some view it as scary and some are fascinated by all that is new and shiny.

Let’s assume that the primary reason this toxin removal thought process thrived was due to the lactic acid theory. (As that’s the one I’m most familiar with. And because I’m a rocket scientist. Wait. That’s not true, and has no bearing on lactic acid. Moving on…) Evidence at the time led to that understanding, but new information has come to light. Lactic acid is not a waste product. Nope. It’s actually used as fuel by the heart and kidneys. Yup. And? Even if it was still muscle Enemy Number One, lactic acid is not in the muscles very long after exercise/activity. You’re sore the day after your workout? That’s delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS and is due to micro muscle tears. Yeah. Tears. Now those sound painful, right? Still don’t believe me?

But What About…?

Frequently when toxin removal is discussed, there are three common points brought up as proof that toxin removal is valid as a massage benefit even beyond lactic acid:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Drinking water flushes the body
  • Massage increases circulation and therefore promotes toxin removal

Let’s take a look at each of these individually.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

This is a bodywork modality directed specifically at stimulating the lymphatic system which is considered part of the immune system and yes, part of its function is to remove waste products from the body. And yes, research has even shown it to be effective at that.

“AH-HA!” you say! “There’s the proof!”

Well…no. Massage is bodywork directed specifically at the soft tissue of the body: muscles, fascia, tendons. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is bodywork that requires advanced training because it is directed to the lymphatic system specifically, not the soft tissues I listed above. Lymphatic work is much lighter than even Swedish massage because any pressure of significance actually crushes the lymph vessels one is trying to push the waste capturing lymph through, thus inhibiting the additional flow of lymph.  Really. So massage doesn’t help. MLD does and it’s supposed to, but it’s different from massage.

Drinking Water Flushes the Body of Toxins

This might be true. No Idea. Is staying hydrated important to the health of the human body in a multitude of ways? Yes. But I am not a nutritionist and as a massage therapist licensed in Massachusetts, I cannot give nutritional advice on a global scale. (Seriously.) So if an expert looked into this, I’d feel comfortable passing along that info. Like since a nephrologist can talk to how water might enhance what is considered the normal detoxification processes of kidneys and how water might help or even harm that process, I might share that info here in a geeky link.

Plus? Massage is not the same as drinking water so I’m not really sure of the connection to this. Massage doesn’t literally squeeze anything out of the muscles like a sponge to be flushed out and water doesn’t wash over the muscles to clear products away.

Massage Increases Circulation and Increased Circulation Promotes Toxin Removal so Massage Promotes Toxin Removal

This sounds like the Transitive Property in math: If A = B and B = C then A = C. But, um, I still have an issue with it. Partly because I still don’t know what toxin the increased circulation is supposed to be removing. Even those products considered metabolic waste products from the body serve a purpose. They may not serve that purpose where they were created, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are toxic. Your circulatory system makes sure some of that metabolic waste transport occurs, but it’s doing that regardless of massage.

You know what does remove/filter toxins waste products from/through the body? Your liver. Your kidneys. Your bladder. Your mucus. (Ew. But True.) Etc. Your whole body is in a constant state of regulation, striving for what’s called homeostasis. Equilibrium. Your body’s very own all-is-right-with-the-world state. Your body wants to be well and healthy. And it’s always in a state of trying to get there. Without you (or me) lifting a muscle.

Psst! Massage is still amazing without toxin claims

I’m sure there is more to say on this. I am sure I missed some interesting, amusing, noteworthy, mind blowing, life altering points. I touched upon some of this at a very high level.

Here’s the thing: I am one of massage’s biggest fans. Truly. I think about it A LOT. (Far more than is healthy.) I’ve made it my occupation. I’ve started down the path to being an instructor to help guide and advance the future and respect of the profession. I want everyone to love massage and for massage to truly have a positive impact on a myriad conditions and ailments.

I also know that even in just the tiny amount of structured massage therapy research that has been done thus far, massage can stand up in its own right to what has been shown to be significantly meaningful. It doesn’t need toxins to hold it up as an amazing addition to one’s well-being.

It just doesn’t.

Massage is Good Medicine

Great information! Of course there’s a plug for the AMTA…  Mayo Clinic Physician Discusses the Health Benefits of Massage


Massage Therapy for Inflammation After (Yard Work or) Exercise — American Massage Therapy Association

Source: Massage Therapy for Inflammation After Exercise — American Massage Therapy Association

Location Change in 2015!

This holiday season I am very thankful for all my clients. I am extremely grateful and enjoyed my almost eleven years working in the Belle Plaine community. Starting in February 2015 I will only practice therapeutic massage in Arlington.

This decision is not easy because of my love for my loyal clients, the community, and the staff at Belle Plaine Chiropractic. However after reflecting on my new family dynamic, my conclusion is I need to focus my business and community efforts in Arlington, where I and my family live.

With this change in mind, I will be expanding my current Arlington hours and have increased flexibility for unexpected massage needs. Gift certificates from Belle Plaine will be honored. As always, I do still require 24 hours notice of an appointment change. If you would like to schedule an appointment please contact me.

Kind regards and Happy Holidays, Pamela C. Pomplun-Morgan

AAS Degree Completed!

IMG_0331 smallPamela completed her Associated of Applied Science Degree in Massage Therapy in August 2013, from Northwestern Health Sciences University located in Bloomington, MN!  During this training she completed an internship at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing located at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN.

Neuromuscular Therapy and Basic Fascial Release Course Completed

Completed advanced training in Neuromuscular Therapy and basic Fascial Release.  Learned many new techniques some that may help healing of many musculoskeletal issues including Carpal tunnel, craniomandibular pain, frozen shoulder, headaches, military neck, Rotator Cuff issues, SIT tendons, Tendonitis, Tendonsynovitis,Tennis Elbow,TMJ Disorder, and  whiplash.  Please visit NMT Center’s website for articles and more information.

Certified in Pregnancy and Post-Partum Massage!

Received my certificate in the mail stating I passed written and hands on exam for Bodywork for the Childbearing Year!  I’m certified in advanced training in therapeutic massage techniques for pregnancy, labor and post-partum. Please visit Healing Essence Massage. For more information on course material please visit Kate Jordan Seminars Bodywork for the Childbearing Year.

Advanced Hands-On Pregnancy Massage Course Completed!

I completed a 34 hour advanced hands on pregnancy massage course this past weekend given by a pioneer in  pregnancy massage Kate Jordan.  I will be certified if I successfully passed the final exam and will know in the next couple weeks.  Learned many new techniques along with Anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, Psycho-social issues in pregnancy, Contraindications/Indications for pregnancy massage, Pregnancy exercise, (Massage)Therapy protocols for the three trimesters, High-risk pregnancy guidelines, Advanced therapeutic techniques, Labor Massage and Support Training, Postpartum Therapy, Cesarean Recovery, and Post-surgical Scar Massage.

To see if pregnancy massage may be beneficial to you during your pregnancy please read articles on Kate Jordan’s website and always consult your OB doctor.

Benefits of Massage Improve with Frequency

Massage Multiplied || Massage Therapy Articles.

Massage Multiplied
Benefits of Massage Improve with Frequency
By Karrie Osborn
What kind of massage client are you? Do you make an appointment after someone has given you a massage gift certificate? Do you try to get in every now and then for a stress-relieving tune-up? Or do you see your therapist religiously–once a week, every three weeks, once a month?

While getting a massage–regardless of how often–is incredibly beneficial to your mind and body, getting frequent massage treatments is even more powerful as a healthcare ally.

“Practicing massage therapists know that people who get massage regularly demonstrate greater improvement and notice a reduction in pain and muscular tension, as well as an improvement in posture,” says Anne Williams, author of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006) and education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

“People regularly make a commitment to fitness. People regularly make a commitment to changing their diet. The difference they’d experience if they regularly made a commitment to massage is mind-blowing,” Williams says.

Stress Killer
One way in which frequent massage can improve our quality of life is by alleviating stress. Experts say more than 90 percent of disease is stress- related, and nothing ages us faster–inside or out–than the effects of stress. As stress-related diseases continue to claim more lives every year, the increasingly deadly role stress plays in modern-day life is painfully clear.

Massage is a great way to take charge and reverse the situation. Mary Beth Braun and Stephanie Simonson, authors of Introduction to Massage Therapy(Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007), explain the benefits of massage therapy in the simplest of terms: “Healing input influences healing output.” They note that frequent massage can reduce the accumulation of stress and improve overall health. “The benefits of massage are cumulative,” they write.

This being the case, it only makes sense that those aches and pains you see your massage therapist for might disappear faster, stay away longer, or even go away altogether with more frequent visits. Stress might never reach those physiologically detrimental levels where the immune system is suppressed or the nervous system is sent into an alarm state if you are able to receive stress-relieving bodywork with some consistency. Not only would your body benefit by regularly unleashing its aches and pains instead of adapting to them, but your mind would have time to wash away the stresses of a life lived in overdrive. Both are critical pieces for living well.

Experts say the body and mind can learn to live more calmly, more efficiently, and more healthfully, when frequent massage shows the way. That makes for a healthier whole, allowing us to continue to live life at its fullest, even as we deal with each new stress or challenge.

Preventive Measures
In so many ways, massage is preventive healthcare. Yes, it can address injuries, scar tissue, and chronic pain, as well as provide relief for cancer patients and reduce hospitalization time for babies born prematurely, among so many other valuable benefits (go to for more information on the myriad benefits of massage). But when the healthy, and trying-to-be-healthy, among us seek out massage on a regular basis, it helps us live a proactively healthier life.

Since bodywork influences every system in the body, there are enormous possibilities created by increasing the frequency in which you address those systems. It’s best to discuss your session goals with your massage therapist and together devise a plan of frequency that meets your needs, while taking into account your therapist’s best advice.

Body Awareness
According to Benny Vaughn, sports massage expert and owner of Athletic Therapy Center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the benefits of consistent and regular massage therapy is better flexibility. “This happens because regular and structured touch stimulus enhances the nervous system’s sensory and spatial processing capacity,” he says. “That is, the person becomes more aware of their body’s movement in space and becomes more aware of tightness or pain long before it reaches a critical point of mechanical dysfunction.”

Quite simply, frequent massage puts you more in tune with your body. “The consistency of massage therapy over time creates a cumulative stress reduction effect,” Vaughn says. “The person becomes acutely aware of stress within their body long before it can create stress-driven damage.”

He says the consistency of receiving regular massage therapy has the potential to create the cumulative effect of feeling well and feeling better. “Ultimately when one feels good, our whole being follows suit on all other levels–i.e., decision-making is better, processing life events is better, and being happy is easier when you are not in pain or feeling ‘heavy’ or ‘tight.'”

Williams says she’s certain people’s lives would be changed if they could schedule massage and bodywork more frequently. “I encourage clients to commit to getting massage once a week for a month and then evaluate the results they get,” she says. “I guarantee they will become massage enthusiasts for life.”

Originally published in Body Sense, Autumn/Winter 2009. Copyright 2009. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.


Healing a Pain in the Neck.

by Hope Bentley

Getting rear-ended in traffic. Face-planting at the bottom of a ski slope. Tumbling over the handlebars onyour bike. Whiplash comes in many forms and can become a long-term problem if not treated correctly. Fortunately, massage and bodywork can address the ache and discomfort that come with whiplash and prevent chronic pain down the road.

Understanding Whiplash

The term “whiplash” came into use in 1928. Doctors will sometimes use “hyperextension injury,” to describe it,  but “whiplash” is a more visceral account of what has happened to the victim’s neck. The neck itself has made a whip-like motion bending first towards and then away from the point of impact. As the head moves rapidly in one direction, the muscles in the neck receive the message to contract. The momentum of the head can cause strain or sprain to the muscles and ligaments in the neck as the head reaches the end of its movement.

Car accidents are the most common causes of whiplash. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reported that about 20 percent of people who have been in rear-end collisions later report whiplash symptoms. Whether front to back or side to side, whiplash can affect muscles all the way into the victim’s back and arms. The most serious form of whiplash compresses nerves in the neck and cause multiple sprains of the ligaments. The good news is, serious hyperextension injuries are in the minority, as whiplash usually comes in the less serious version of the injury.

“Fortunately, about 95 percent of the time whiplash tends to be more superficial damage, like slight muscle strains and tears,” says Ben Benjamin, Ph.D., a massage therapist who holds a doctorate in education and sports medicine. But whether the pain is minor soreness or serious discomfort, massage can provide relief and prevent chronic problems in the long run.

Whiplash Symptoms

The symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades (sometimes called “coat hanger pain”), low back pain, and pain or numbness in the arms or extremities. Often people who suffer whiplash do not feel the effects until two or three days after the injury-causing incident. Benjamin explains that this delayed onset is because it takes time for scar tissue to manifest in the sprained or strained muscles and ligaments. And because scar tissue is more adhesive than regular tissue, people experience it as stiffness in the injured areas.

Whiplash affects primarily the neck, but victims shouldn’t ignore the rest of the body. This injury can pull the long muscles on either side of the spine, which reach all the way to the tailbone and can cause discomfort along the way. Discomfort or stiffness in the chest and arms can also be due to whiplash. And headaches may be the result of slowed circulation to the head caused by the swelling in the injury.

Massage Can Help

Any massage that causes a general relaxation of the client’s muscles can help relieve muscular pain in common types of whiplash injuries. In addition, massage increases the amount of oxygen that reaches the healing tissues and opens those tissues so they can receive oxygen and nutrients, thus speeding the healing process.

In addition to relaxation massage, specific bodywork methods ease acute whiplash discomfort and help prevent chronic fallout. For example, myofascial approaches restore fluidity to the fascia–normally a slippery tissue that surrounds all the moving parts inside the body–allowing freer movement of muscles and ligaments. Friction-based massage helps break up scar tissue and relieve stiffness. Trigger point therapy works by releasing tension held in tight knots of muscle. And any type of bodywork that stimulates circulation helps ease and prevent headaches.

Finally, the incident that caused the whiplash in the first place, (a car wreck, for instance) can be traumatic. Massage helps relax a client’s psyche as well as their muscles, helping her or him work through the emotional issues induced by the accident. Because the neck is such a delicate part of the body, it is important to proceed with caution. Benjamin advises waiting a few days after the accident to seek treatment. This allows the initial scar tissue to knit, which is an important part of the healing process. The initial treatment should be extremely gentle, and if there is a chance of a fracture, a concussion, any disc problem or other serious injury, the client should make sure to see a physician first.

Let the Healing Begin

It used to be that physicians would immobilize whiplash injuries with a cervical collar, but now health care professionals advise a more temperate course for their patients. “I recommend gentle neck movement within your range of motion while lying on a pillow,” says Benjamin. Movement may help prolong the benefits of the massage by continuing to circulate blood, oxygen, and nutrients through the healing tissue. “Heat or cold, whichever feels better, can also help,” says Benjamin. “Soaking in a hot bath can also be beneficial.” Limiting physical activity for a few days and getting plenty of rest in the wake of a whiplash injury is also a good idea. Whiplash is traumatic and should be addressed soon after the injury to avoid any chronic problems. If you or someone you love is suffering from the repercussions of whiplash, consider a bodywork session to ease the discomfort. Massage can help lessen muscle pain, induce relaxation, and ease the trauma often associated with whiplash. You’ll be back to your old self in no time.

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