Getting a massage is a wonderful way to take care of your body and your mind. Massages help reduce stress, relieve muscle tension, provide pain relief, and circulate blood and lymph so our bodies can heal and repair. Given all these health benefits, massage should be a part of everybody’s self-care routines.
Even though getting a massage seems very relaxing, it’s actually hard work for our bodies. What happens to the body after a massage?
When muscle tissue is manipulated during a massage it’s the equivalent of a light workout for the muscles. This creates temporary systemic inflammation, which is a normal healing response. A massage also helps to cleanse our bodies, which sends the systems that process and remove toxins into overdrive.
Since getting a massage kicks off so much hard work for our bodies, it’s important to do certain things to recover. Do these things when you leave your appointment so you can feel your best and get the maximum benefits from your massage.
Drink Lots of Water (Only Water!)
Any good massage therapist will tell you to drink lots of water after your massage. Unfortunately, most of us don’t listen. But we really should because water is an essential part of taking care of your body after a massage.
There are several reasons why you should focus on hydration after a massage.
The most important is that drinking water helps flush out your system. When you get a massage, the pressure applied to your muscles moves lymph through the body, encouraging the lymphatic system to flush toxins.
Drinking water after your massage assists the lymphatic system and other organs that process toxins while cleansing our bodies of all the toxins that build up over time. If you don’t hydrate well after a massage, you might be left with a headache and sore muscles because the process of toxin-removal is slowed down by improper hydration.
Being properly hydrated also helps reduce the slight inflammation that occurs from the muscles being manipulated during a massage. This will help your muscles recover from the massage and help reduce any soreness you might feel after a massage.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine right after a massage. Both of these beverages are dehydrating, so they’ll work against your body’s recovery process.
To feel your best and get the most out of your massage, stick to water and only water for at least a few hours after your massage.
Have a Snack
During and after a massage your body is doing a lot. All of your systems, including your digestive system, are in overdrive. This means it’s totally normal to feel a little hungry after a massage.
Eating a full meal after a massage probably won’t make your body feel great, but having a light snack definitely will. Grab something that’s nutrient-dense, with a lot of vitamins and minerals. Your body needs this healthy fuel in order to properly recover from your massage.
The best foods to eat after a massage are those that help reduce inflammation. Since your body produces slight inflammation to help your muscles heal, your body will be dealing with more inflammation than normal. Anything you can do to reduce that inflammation will assist with the recovery process.
What are some good anti-inflammatory snacks for after your massage? Grab some blueberries, almonds, or some probiotic yoghurt. Or even better, combine the three for a filling but light anti-inflammatory power snack.
Take It Easy
You just spent an hour or more lying down on a massage table, so you shouldn’t need more rest, right? Actually, you do! Your body is going through a lot after a massage and it needs more rest in order to recover properly.
The muscle manipulation that occurs during massage, especially deep tissue massage, can cause microtears in the muscle. While this may sound scary or dangerous, it’s not at all. The same kind of microtears happen when we exercise. This is also why you may feel sore after a massage.
You need to rest after a massage for the same reason you need to rest after a workout – to let your muscles heal from these microtears.
You definitely shouldn’t head to the gym after a massage. If you do, you can exacerbate the microtears that occurred during the massage. This will lead to more soreness and inflammation, which makes it harder for your body to repair itself. Though light massage can help prepare your muscles for the gym, any massage with deeper pressure shouldn’t be followed by a workout.
If you can, you should take it easy for the rest of the day. Rest both your body and your mind. If possible, schedule your appointment so you don’t have to go back to work or any other appointments after your massage. Also, try to avoid stressful situations.
You just spent time and money to chill out with a massage, so keep the vibe going by treating your body and mind as gently as possible.
Go For a Slow Walk and Enjoy the Outdoors
Taking it easy after a massage doesn’t have to mean lying down for the rest of the day. Going for an easy, slow walk after a massage gets your blood pumping. Increased blood flow will help your muscles heal after your massage.
Taking a gentle stroll also encourages mobility in your joints and muscles. This can help reduce stiffness and tightness you might feel after lying on the massage table for so long.
Going for a walk outside is a great way to oxygenate your body with some fresh air. This will help assist the healing process as well. And connecting to your breath while enjoying the outdoors will help keep your mind calm and relieve stress.
Do Some Light Stretching
Though heading to the gym to lift or run on the treadmill won’t help your body recover from a massage, doing some light stretching or some gentle yoga will.
Because the muscles have experienced the equivalent of a light workout during a massage, many people experience some muscle soreness after a massage. You might also experience some tightness in areas that received deep pressure.
Stretches help lengthen and loosen the muscles that were massaged. So, doing some very easy stretches or 15-20 minutes of very slow, gentle yoga, can help relieve the muscle soreness and tension you might experience after a massage.
Take a Hot Bath
Heat is a wonderful and soothing way to relax your body and your mind. So, it’s the perfect follow up to a full body massage.
Taking a hot bath will help your body recover from a massage in a few ways. The heat of the water will help the muscles relax even further. The heat will also soothe any muscle soreness you might be experiencing post-massage. The hot water will also get more blood to the muscles, which helps repair the microtears in the muscle tissue.
Plus, a hot bath after a massage will help relieve even more stress, which creates the perfect internal environment for recovery.
If you’d like, you can add some Epsom salt to the bath as well. The Epsom salt will dissolve in the water and soaking in it can aid in muscle recovery.
Ice Sore Muscles
If your muscles are particularly sore after a massage it may be because of the extra inflammation. Putting ice on sore muscles helps to reduce the inflammation. It also helps numb the pain.
Though heat can help soothe muscle soreness, it doesn’t really address the inflammation. A combination of ice and heat may be the best post-massage recovery routine. Start with icing sore muscles, then use a heating pad or hop in a hot bath to let the heat finish the job.
Take Time and Space to Process Emotions
A common saying in the massage therapy industry is that we “store our issues in our tissues.” Basically, this means that our bodies keep a record of all of our emotions, positive and negative and that our bodies retain our stress.
Most of us are familiar with the knotted muscles that accompany a stressful job or stressful time in our lives. So, it makes sense that the muscles are holding onto some of our emotions and that they get released as our muscles get released during a massage.
Because of this, it’s common for people to have powerful, emotional responses either during or after a massage. Some people find that they’re crying and don’t know why. Others find themselves recalling difficult times in their life. Some experience feelings that don’t seem connected to what’s happening in their lives.
While these emotional experiences are a bit jarring, they’re completely normal after getting a massage. Give yourself the time and space you need to process any emotions that might come up.
Taking Care of Yourself After a Massage
Though getting a massage is very relaxing, your body goes through a lot during a massage. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your body and your mind after a massage. Take the time to do these things after your appointment so your body can properly recover.