Emotional Massage: Why do I feel ill or sick after my massage?

I’ve done a lot of massages and feeling sick after a massage is not a common reaction, but it can happen occasionally. Massage therapists are aware of this phenomenon, and that it usually affects clients who are first-time massage recipients or someone who has not received massage for quite some time. The worst cases of a post-massage “healing crisis” feel like the full-blown flu. It’s rare during a massage but it does happen! Let’s explore what causes this phenomenon and whether a post-massage glass of water can prevent it?

Healthy versus unhealthy muscle tissue getting a massage

When you book in for a deep tissue massage you’re probably not concerned if your muscles are hydrated or dehydrated. If your muscles are in a healthy and hydrated state they feel soft and spongy which allows blood to circulate freely through the tissues and vessels. Unhealthy or dehydrated muscles are the tissues that usually cause you pain. They can feel tight, movement restricted, and hard – often squeezing the capillaries enough to restrict the amount of blood flow and lymphatic drainage. If there’s not a healthy flow of blood getting through, tissues can be starved of vital oxygen and nutrient exchange. Metabolic waste can also build up and become stuck without the flushing effect of adequate blood flow. 

Poisoned by massage

Rather than de-toxifying, the body, deep tissue massage can in the short term cause a slightly toxic situation in your body. If there is a significant number of unhealthy tissues present in your body your massage therapist will be working to break up the adhesions that have formed, allowing increased blood flow, movement, and restoration of muscles to a healthier state. This allows the metabolic waste to get dumped, all at once, into the lymphatic system. The faster delivery of nutrients and oxygen and their resulting combustion can use up water from your bloodstream – which may leave you feeling thirsty or dehydrated. This combination can lead to your body’s immune system experiencing a toxic overload as the metabolic waste accumulates at a greater rate than the body can comfortably get rid of – making you feel icky!

Why do muscles dehydrate and become unhealthy – can massage help?

There are numerous factors that contribute to the body’s soft tissues becoming dehydrated, painful, and stiff. Mostly living a sedentary lifestyle or being physically inactive are causes but it can also be triggered by the overuse of muscles during a new exercise regime, particularly after periods of inactivity. Sometimes when you are under physical, emotional, or chemical stress, the lymphatic system can become stagnant and metabolic waste solidifies – congesting the surrounding moving parts. Deep tissue, sports and remedial massage focus on breaking down crunchy adhesive knots to un-tie and free up the blood vessels to allow the supply of blood and removal of waste from your tissues.

Massage boosts your lymphatic system

Massage stimulates circulation and the removal of waste, generated from muscle metabolism, through the lymphatic system. Waste can also contain allergens, excess fat, viruses, and bacteria. Metabolic waste accumulates around the cells in a liquid called interstitial fluid and needs to be transported back to the bloodstream to be filtered through the liver and kidneys. Massage pushes and moves this fluid around causing the body to require more water to flush out and process the releasing toxins. If your body is dehydrated it causes your liver and kidneys to work harder. You may experience a feeling of nausea, headache, or flu-like symptoms as your body struggles to process the increased amount of metabolic waste.

Steps to prevent post-massage sickness

As the human body is mostly made up of water, the normal functioning of all the body’s systems is dependent on how hydrated we are. Most massage therapists will advise you to drink water after a massage. However, it is also advisable that you are hydrated before the session too. Drinking water in the hours before your massage will encourage the lymphatic system to instantly process and discharge metabolic waste through the organs preventing the overloading of toxins. It is essential to ask for a drink of water during your massage if you feel thirsty, as this will usually prevent a headache from occurring later – keeping you hydrated before the negative effects of dehydration set in. If you haven’t had a massage in a long time and you have previously experienced post-massage nausea, headaches, or sickness it’s best to inform your therapist as often the application of lighter pressure can reduce the amount of waste discharged. You can then normally increase the pressure in subsequent massage sessions.

Massage can be a hugely enjoyable experience and can facilitate better functioning of the body and a greater sense of wellbeing. To get the most out of your massage sessions, aim to schedule them at a period of regularity that supports your lifestyle, health condition, and environment.

Can I get an emotional release during a massage?

The short explanation for emotional release is that because massage may access the soft tissues of the body deeply, that it can unlock emotional energy locked in that tissue. To understand how emotion can be accessed through the tissue, you will first need to be familiar with body memory. Most people who receive massage regularly report feeling relief, a sense of peace, or increased relaxation. However, some people may also experience a sudden rush of powerful emotion while receiving bodywork. Whether it is grief, euphoria, anger, fear, or sadness, the phenomenon is known as an emotional release.

What is an emotional release?
Emotional Release is a process whereby people learn how to exchange effective help with each other in order to free themselves from the effects of past distress experiences. … When adequate emotional discharge can take place, the person is freed from the rigid pattern of behavior and feeling left by the hurt.
Can massage make you cry?
Why do we feel emotional after a massage? The Branch Director of the Utah College of Massage Therapy labels crying as “a pretty normal response to massage”. It appears when we cleanse our bodies and allow ourselves to enjoy the relaxation that comes from massage, it disrupts something, in some way.
How do you release trapped emotions?
Practice mindfulness to get better at recognizing your feelings and observing the bodily sensations connected to those feelings, as they come and go throughout the day. Offer yourself self-compassion as you go through more difficult emotions. PRACTICE: Sit still for few minutes with your eyes closed.
What are the 5 stages of healing?
Five Stages Of Healing
  • Stage One: Grief And Denial.
  • Stage Two: Anger.
  • Stage Three: Bargaining.
  • Stage Four: Depression.
  • Stage Five: Acceptance.

What does emotional release feel like?
At first, it may feel like it’s getting bigger, but that’s part of the process of release. Actually visualize the breath or energy moving into that space in your body, expanding it, and then taking that pain with it out of your body as you exhale.
What emotions are stored in the kidneys?
FEAR + FRIGHT. Fear is the emotion of the kidneys and the bladder, organs associated with the water element. It is a normal adaptive emotion but can become chronic when ignored. Kidney issues often arise when we are dealing with fear, such as a change in life direction or unstable living conditions.
What emotions are stored in the hips?
Whether it is one traumatic event or multiple small events, the feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness are stored at the hips until we bring them to the surface and allow a release with these deep hip openers. The longer you suppress emotion, the tighter the grasp.
How do you release negative emotions from your body?
7 Ways to clear yourself of negative emotions
  1. Acknowledge the feeling. …
  2. Breathe deeply. …
  3. Take a break. …
  4. Let it all out. …
  5. Do something that lights you up. …
  6. Journal your feelings. …
  7. Show yourself compassion.
How does trauma get trapped in the body?
A stressor that is too much for a person to handle overloads the nervous system, stopping the trauma from processing. This overload halts the body in its instinctive fight or flight response, causing the traumatic energy to be stored in the surrounding muscles, organs, and connective tissue.
Nicola, LMT offers innate compassion and a holistic massage approach!
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Therapeutic Swedish Massage, Sports Massage Therapy in Santa Barbara, Goleta


*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.