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  • Why Some Massage Therapists (Like Me) Don’t Give You Water

    Water and Massage

    I’m not sure how giving water to every massage client started; perhaps it was the old myth that massage releases toxins from your muscles and you needed to flush those nasty things from your body with lots of water. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that massage does NOT release toxins from your muscles therefore you don’t need to drink buckets of water to flush them out. We know, however, that muscles feel and work their best when they’re fully hydrated. So drinking water after a massage, while not necessary, isn’t a bad idea.

    Can I Get Some Water Please?

    Spas are all about the water, and coffee and tea and juice and soft fuzzy robes and rose petals. They’re all about putting you in the lap of luxury; that’s probably why you go there. For the prices you pay at most spas, I’d say the least they can do is throw in a “free” beverage or two if you’re going to be there for a couple hours.

    You’ll be hard pressed, however, to find bottle or glass of water offered to patients at most medical offices even though you might be there for a couple of hours as well (although you probably didn’t expect to be there that long).

    Massage therapy as a profession seems to tread a fine line between pampering and health care. Some therapists are full-on, evidence-based therapists who work to release tight muscles and trigger points to decrease pain and increase range of motion in their clients. These therapists aren’t worried about how relaxed you are as long as you feel and move better. Other massage therapists take a completely opposite approach to massage: they want you to feel like you were pampered in the lap of luxury. For them, relaxation is the only objective. Most therapists fall somewhere in the continuum between these two. And that’s good. After all, some massage clients want pain relief and increased range of motion, some view massage as nothing more than a nice treat, and others are looking for a combination of relaxation and pain relief.

    So, Where’s My Water?

    Just like there’s a continuum of care from clinical treatment to pampering there’s also a continuum amongst massage therapists when it comes to offering our clients water. There are probably as many reasons, or combination of reasons, for not offering water as there are therapists. Today I’ll fill you in on some of the most prevalent ones.

    • Myths – Some therapists don’t offer water because they believe that doing so perpetuates the “flush the toxins” myth that I talked about earlier. I can’t say that I blame them.
    • Clinical or Medical Focus  – Many massage therapists view themselves and are licensed as healthcare providers. They argue that you aren’t offered a glass of water in your doctor’s or physical therapist’s office so why should you be offered one at your clinical massage therapy appointment. Hard to argue with that.
    • Space – water coolers and refrigerators (even dorm sized refrigerators) take up space, and some therapists don’t have that space to spare.
    • Eco-consciousness – Some therapists are very eco-minded and there are two big considerations when it comes offering water to clients. 1) Disposable cups – These must either go in the landfill or be composted. While composting is a pretty good eco alternative to landfills, it’s not available in every community. For instance, in my city composting is illegal. 2) Plastic bottles – Plastic is made from petroleum which is not high on the list of eco-friendly products. They can be recycled, but many people throw them away instead. Those who are hard core eco won’t give out bottles to be taken home when they’re likely to end up in the city dump. There’s also the consideration that recycling plastic is extremely energy intensive and therefore barely better than throwing it away.
    • Health concerns – There are two concerns that come immediately to mind, one related to plastic water bottles, the other related to water pitchers:
      1) Plastic contains phthalates (pronounced: THAL lates) which leach out when the plastic is heated. They are present in pretty much every plastic because they are used as a softener in the plastic manufacturing process. They’re also endocrine disruptors. That means they disrupt your hormones. Where do the phthalates go when they leach out of your water bottle? Into your water. Even if your therapist bought refrigerated water at the store and put it in the refrigerator as soon as she got it to her office, those bottles would still have sat in an unrefrigerated (read: Hot) warehouse before being put into an unrefrigerated truck which then took it to her neighborhood store. In other words, the water’s already full of phthalates by the time it’s available for purchase at your local store. PS, most water coolers use great big plastic bottles of water. Yuck! No plastic water bottles for this gal!
      2) It’s crazy easy to grow bacteria in a pitcher of water. If there’s a pitcher of water setting out on the counter all day, chances are excellent there’s something growing in it. Even if it’s filtered, distilled, or even reverse osmosis (RO) water. Believe me. I spent 10 years working in a lab where one of my jobs was to analyze drinking water for the presence of bacteria. In order for bacterial test results to be valid, a “blank” must always be analyzed along with the samples to show that there wasn’t any contamination. The only acceptable result for a blank is 0 (zero) bacteria. We used deionized (DI) water for our blanks. In case you’re not a lab rat like I used to be, deionized water is even more pure than reverse osmosis water. I’ve seen contaminated blanks made from DI water that sat out too long. You won’t find a water pitcher sitting out in my office.

    At this point, my office is too small for even a dorm sized refrigerator and as I said, I won’t use plastic bottles or have a pitcher of water sitting out all day. Hopefully one day I’ll have a space where I can offer RO water right from the tap. Until that day I’d love to see you bring your own reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. Just be careful not to drink too much before the massage…