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Massage toxins

These two terms often create confusion when used to talk about the benefits of massage therapy. To help set the record straight, let’s explore what they are and are not.


First, we need to define what a “toxin” in the body is. A snake bite, chemotherapy or poison are a few examples of “toxins”. Substances that naturally occur in the body (e.g. lactic acid) are not toxins. For anyone who has had a massage, you have most likely been given water after your session with instructions to drink up so you can “flush all those toxins that were released in your body during the massage”. These toxins they refer to are actually metabolic wastes produced by the body in response to environmental or biological stressors or even those caused by lifestyle choices that can cause the body to slow down or feel sluggish at times. But these “toxins” are not released into your bloodstream during a massage. This includes lactic acid, which is a substance that naturally occurs in the body and is not considered a toxin. Massage may help address the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, but it does not flush out lactic acid. Studies have shown that certain forms of deep massage may actually inhibit lactic acid from being excreted or reabsorbed efficiently by the body.

Our bodies are designed to get rid of metabolic wastes on their own. The liver, kidneys, and colon act as a filtering system to eliminate waste and harmful substances that enter our bodies either through the air we breathe, what we ingest, or what we apply to our skin.


What massage can do is help support the body’s ability to excrete or reuse metabolic waste, often referred to as “detoxification”, by increasing lymph flow and blood circulation, thereby supporting your immune function. This can help your body fight off some of those harmful environmental and biological substances.

The lymphatic system – made up of vessels, ducts, and nodes – plays an important part in “detoxifying” our bodies by removing metabolic waste and excess fluid. Specific massage modalities like Swedish or manual lymphatic drainage massage can help improve blood and lymph circulation and help make the immune system stronger by increasing the activity level of specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes. The lymphocytes kill pathogens that might be present.

Regular massage, when incorporated into your overall health and wellness plan, does more than relax your muscles. It relaxes your mind, reduces stress and anxiety, decreases pain, and improves sleep. All of these are part of the natural detoxification process that helps your body fight harmful substances from bacterial infections and intestinal debris to external pathogens.


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