We all deserve the chance to relax after a long week, and a beer (or three) followed by a soothing massage might sound like a perfect recipe for relaxation.
But if your daydreams involve both a few drinks and a massage therapy session, you should understand that massage therapists don’t really approve the combination of too much booze and a massage.
While there are varying opinions on how long you should wait after drinking to get a massage, massage therapy experts agree that it’s not safe to massage a client when they are drunk, they are hangover or they are thinking of drinking a lot after the session.
Before or after massage drinking can have different effects into your body, and we will explain why is that and why you shouldn't mix this two factors.
How massage affects your body
Massage boosts circulation, pushing the body’s lymph fluid around and helping you to shed excess fluids more quickly. (This is why your therapist will encourage you to drink plenty of water after a massage.)
Massage creates a state of deep relaxation, lowers your blood pressure, reduces levels of stress hormones like cortisol and increases pleasurable hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the body.
These effects of massage alone can be a great thing, but when combined with alcohol can be dangerous. Some massage therapists even report seeing clients get "re-drunk" after a massage. Your time spent in your massage chair should leave you feeling relaxed, healthy, and rejuvenated—not sick or in more pain!
How alcohol affects your body
Alcohol, a diuretic, is well-known for its dehydrating effects, as anyone who’s ever had a hangover headache will tell you.
Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving the alcohol through your bloodstream and increasing your blood alcohol level.
Alcohol impairs cognitive reasoning. Alcohol consumption can impair reflexes, limit motor control, and reduce coordination.
Drinking too much weakens the body’s immune system, and a single event of binge-drinking can limit your body’s ability to prevent infections for up to 24 hours
How massage interacts with alcohol
Numbed senses. Alcohol and massage are both relaxing. But Alcohol tends to desensitize the nerve endings and reduce the sensation of touch, making it difficult for you and your massage therapist to judge the best level of pressure and the person may be unable to give appropriate feedback. You want to feel the massage, don’t you?
Amplified drunkenness. Alcohol travels through your bloodstream. (We know, it doesn’t sound as much fun when we say it that way.) Massage increases circulation, which means that alcohol both hits your bloodstream more quickly and remains there longer.
Compromised Judgment & Thinking: We're taught that alcohol affects our judgment. It increasing levels of norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter responsible for arousal and heightened excitement, and an increase in impulsivity as well as a reduction in impulse control. Additionally, alcohol dulls the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area responsible for decision making and rational thought that also has control over aggressive behavior.
Decreased Motor Activity & Physical Coordination: Because alcohol lowers energy consumption in the cerebellum, which controls your motor activity and overall physical coordination, you can't be certain of your behavior while under the influence. Best to avoid embarrassing—or worse—harmful behavior during an activity that is supposed to be relaxing.
Intensified hangovers. Both massage and alcohol can have a dehydrating effect. This doesn’t just make you thirstier – it can intensify hangover symptoms. There's a reason that drinking water after a massage is highly recommended. Massage is believed to increase movement of fluids, which could also expedite the body's process of breaking down and excreting the alcohol, which in turn could enhance the severity of a hangover and you´ll be thhhhhirsty!
The key is moderation. Alcohol, like massage, has a powerful effect on your body. When you are intoxicated or under the influence, the two don’t mix together in a healthy manner.
Long story short, (too much) alcohol and massage don’t mix well. Feel free to have a glass of wine pre/post-massage, but keep the Oktoberfest-style beer binge for another day!