Here are some simple tips to help you maintain and balance your body after your massage:

Drink Water, Especially For The Next 24 Hours - Drinking water after a massage is often recommended by massage therapists and other health care practitioners for a variety of reasons. In fact, drinking water in general is a good idea, as the body benefits from proper hydration, and consuming water will help the kidneys and other organs process the various substances which move through the human body on a regular basis. Drinking water before a massage is also highly recommended, as it will make it easier for the massage therapist to perform deep work by hydrating the muscles so that they are easier to manipulate.

There are primary reasons for people to drink water after a massage. The first has to do with substances released by the muscles as the massage therapist manipulates them, and the second has to do with ensuring that the muscles of the body are properly hydrated.

In the case of the first reason, drinking the water helps the body flush out any accumulated materials in the muscles which were released during the massage. Especially in the case of deep tissue massage, massage stimulates circulation in the body while expressing water, salt, and other minerals from the muscles, and circulation is designed to carry away waste materials generated by cells. By providing the body with plenty of water, massage clients can help sweep away these waste materials; otherwise, they might build up, causing muscle aches and soreness after a massage.

In the case of lymphatic massage, drinking the water is especially important, as the stimulation of the lymphatic circulation system can generate a large release of wastes in the body. If one thinks of the lymph system as the sewer pipes of the body, collecting unwanted waste material and carrying it away for disposal, lymphatic massage is like a drain cleaner, so water helps flush the drain, in a sense.

Most importantly, people should drink water because massage can be dehydrating. The manipulation of the muscles depletes them of water, and also moves the fluid in the interstitial spaces between the muscles around. By drinking water, people can rehydrate their muscles, reducing the potential for pain and soreness in the days following a massage. For the same reason, people drink water after exercise and other forms of exertion, because when the muscles are worked, they lose water and electrolytes.

Many people also like to drink a glass of water after a massage because it helps bring them back down to earth. After a massage, people can feel a bit spacey and disoriented, so having a glass of water while sitting on the massage table can help bring the body and mind back to the present, and it gives the client time to slowly return to the real world.

Take A Bath - A nice warm bath is very soothing after a massage, especially with Epsom Salts.  Epsom Salts are Magnesium Sulfate, which is a natural muscle relaxer.  They are also wonderful at drawing out toxins in the body, as is massage, so you may get a sort of detoxifying effect which is very beneficial to the body.  You can get Epsom Salts at most grocery stores or pharmacies.  If you don't have Epsom Salts, don't worry - a nice warm bath, not extremely hot, will do just fine.  This is important because if you have any inflammation in the muscles, the excessive heat can serve to exacerbate the injury.  If you have a very sore muscle or injury, I recommend Sombra Warm Therapy or Tiger Balm. 

Pay Attention To Your Body's Reaction To The Massage - You may be sore after the massage.  This is normal with Deep Tissue massage, but it can also happen with the more gentle type of Swedish massage as well.  Sometimes you may not feel the soreness until the next day. Massage is a passive form of exercise.  If you are not one to get massages often, or do not exercise and are not used to using the muscles, then they may respond with soreness.  This should only last for a day or perhaps two; anything more indicates that perhaps your therapist worked on you a little too hard.  This should be adjusted in the next segment.  You can help your therapist by stretching before you arrive for your segment.  Remember anything that was particularly painful and report this to your therapist at your next visit.  The therapist should be open to what you are saying and should tailor your visit from the information they receive from you.

Rest - You may feel tired, as if you want to lie down and take a nap.  This is completely normal, and you should listen to your body. If you can, make sure you have nowhere to go and nothing to do after your massage.  Massage is not just work on the body; it is work on the mind too.  It helps to destress and relax you; this in turn may make you feel tired.  This is your time to recover your mind and body and it is your body's time to rebalance itself and retune.  Don't feel like you SHOULD be doing something.  Make time for yourself and your body will thank you.

Eat lightly before and after a massage.  Avoid eating heavy meals before a massage, but don’t come on an empty stomach either.   Eating a banana and a hand full of raw almonds 1-2 hours before a massage is a good alternative choice.  After the massage, try eating a vegetarian meal such as warm steamed or lightly stir-fried vegetables with pasta or rice, with some herbal tea.

Welcome Different Emotions - Sometimes, if you have been experiencing lots of stress, you may feel the need to cry after the massage.  Alternatively, you may feel elated, on cloud nine, or full of energy.  Either response is normal.  Try not to suppress these emotions.  The massage may channel these feelings and multiply them; whichever way, this is what the body needs.  Allow them to come and you will feel that much better afterwards. 

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, I will be happy to discuss any concerns you may have.

Why Am I Sore?  - Understanding Massage as the Body's Workout

By Shirley Vanderbilt  Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Fall 2002.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

You've just had a wonderful massage, and you go home feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated. But the next morning, you wake up with twinges of muscle soreness, maybe some fatigue, and you just don't feel yourself. What happened? Chances are it's the massage, and it's perfectly OK.

Keith Grant, head of the Sports and Deep Tissue Massage Department at McKinnon Institute in Oakland, Calif., says, "It's very much like doing a workout. If the muscles aren't used to it, they often respond with some soreness." Grant notes this should last for no more than a day or two. If it lasts longer, the massage may have been too intense, and the therapist should adjust for this in the next session. However, just as with exercise, when your body adjusts to having this type of workout, your physical response will also be less intense.

A professional massage is more than an ordinary backrub. Your massage therapist can find all the kinks that have built up from daily stress and too little or too much exercise. The whole point of a therapeutic massage is to release that tension, work out the kinks and help your body relax so it can function at an optimal level. All of this work stretches muscles, pushes blood into them and gets things working again.

There are several theories, in addition to muscle function, as to why people sometimes experience after-effects from massage. Grant points to one theory being closely examined by experts. Neurological sensitivity, or "sensitization," looks at the "whole response of what's going on in a person." As Grant explains, massage provides a significant amount of input to the central nervous system and the body responds to that increased information. Pain and other occasional after-effects may be the result of a system that has received more information than it can handle at that particular time. And because the amount of sensory input we receive during any day or week is always fluctuating, sometimes we may be overloaded and other times not. It depends on the total stress (emotional, spiritual and physical) being experienced by the body at that moment.

So what can you do to minimize sometimes painful side effects? It's important to communicate with your massage therapist regarding your expectations, as well as your current state of health. Your therapist can then tailor the massage to your personal needs and desires, and make adjustments in intensity or technique as the session proceeds. "I'd look at what's being done," says Grant. In some cases, a shorter or more soothing session may be more appropriate. In others, the therapist may need to change the kind of technique used. Much of this can be judged by how the person is feeling and responding during the massage.

Understand that your body is an organism made up of complex systems that react to a constantly changing influx of external factors. Maintain good health practices and keep your mind free of negative clutter. Drink plenty of water immediately following your treatment, and continue to do so for the next day or two. This will rehydrate your tissues and ease the effects. Take it easy after your massage. Go home, relax and just allow your body to find its balance naturally. Like exercise, make bodywork a habitual practice for good health. And if you wake up the next morning a little sore, it's probably because you had a really good massage.