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Why do I feel ill after a massage?

How and why does this happen?

Feeling ill the day after getting a massage is not an ordinary event, but it happens occasionally. Massage therapists are not unfamiliar with this phenomenon that can occur to a first-time massage therapy recipient, or sometimes to a client who has not received a massage for quite some time. A similar effect is often felt when a person starts a new exercise regimen after being sedentary for an extended period, or any intense physical activity, like a marathon.

Just what might be causing this is thought to be related to a discovery by two physician researchers back in the late 1800s. The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, named after the scientists, Adolf Jarisch (1850-1902) and Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942), was witnessed to happen when patients diagnosed
and treated for syphilis experienced a short period of getting worse after receiving the first several doses of antibiotics.

In modern times, this has been witnessed in patients being treated for both typhoid fever and Lyme disease. What is presumed to happen is that the body’s immune system experiences a toxic overload as the bacteria or viruses die off in larger number than the body can comfortably dispose of.

How, though, would this relate to being sick after a massage?

When you receive a massage, various body systems are given a temporary boost. Blood circulation is enhanced, lymph flow is improved, and the immune system starts to become a bit more efficient. If you are a person who gets little or no exercise (not uncommon in our culture these days), who has never had a massage, or only gets a massage once or twice a year, your body will be stimulated just enough to stir things up a bit.

It may start to experience a slight toxic overload and cause you to feel those aches, pains, tiredness and general malaise so prevalent with the onset of the flu.

5 Tips to Lessen Or Even Eliminate the Effects

  • Remember to keep hydrated after your massage; try drinking water with a little lemon to help flush your system.
  • Eat light, no heavy meals.
  • Take a warm bath with some Epsom salts added.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Consider doing some light exercise, and even just a 20-minute walk can help.

Booking a massage on a regular basis – once a week or every two weeks – will usually keep this effect from recurring, as will regular moderate exercise.


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