We all deserve the chance to recover physically and mentally after a long week, and an adult beverage (or three) followed by a soothing massage might sound like a perfect recipe for relaxation.
But if your daydreams of unwinding at home involve both a few stiff drinks and a massage therapy session, you should understand that massage therapists don’t approve of combining too much booze and 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 or have had too many drinks.
Why shouldn’t I get a massage right after drinking?
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.
Let’s dive in to the simple facts about the effects of both alcohol and massage on your body.
How massage affects the 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.
- Massage releases toxins from the muscles into the bloodstream, which can heighten the negative effects of alcohol.
How alcohol affects the 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 the deep relaxation of massage, combined with the numbing effect of alcohol, means that you may not be in touch with your body during your massage. This makes it difficult for both you and your massage therapist to judge the best level of pressure for your massage. You want to feel the massage, don’t you?
- Amplified drunkenness. Alcohol travels through your bloodstream. Massage increases circulation and flushes toxins from muscles, which means that alcohol both hits your bloodstream more quickly and remains there longer. Some massage therapists have seen tipsy customers become more drunk during a massage because of this amplification effect.
- Intensified hangovers. Both massage and alcohol can have a dehydrating effect. This doesn’t just make you thirstier – it can intensify hangover symptoms. (That said, a massage can help cure hangovers.)
- Canceled-out positive effects. Massage strengthens the body’s immune system, but drinking too much weakens the body’s immune system – meaning that you lose this important health benefit of massage, essentially canceling out the positive effect.
Best practices for massage and alcohol
Licensed massage therapists will typically refuse to work with a customer who is visibly intoxicated. While they will work with customers who have had a glass of wine but are not drunk, massage experts recommend that you wait at least four hours after drinking alcohol before getting a massage.
Long story short, [too much] alcohol and massage don’t mix well. Feel free to have a glass of wine or a mimosa pre-massage, but keep the Oktoberfest-style beer binge as an after-massage treat if you’re hoping to get the best from both worlds.
Marcy is the SVP of People and Communications at Zeel. In addition to overseeing the humans of Zeel, Marcy has written about workplace topics for more than 20 years both at Zeel and as VP of Content for Vault.com, a career information web site and publisher.