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When massages go bad

By Dean Irvine for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Treatments for men and men-only spas or grooming salons have been a phenomenon of the past decade and have helped spawn that dreadful modern urban archetype the metrosexual -- you may as well be called asexual.

Being a bit snooty about spas or general pampering for men though seems even more outdated. Tuck in your machismo and ask what's wrong with someone trained in massage therapy taking away the stresses of life and feeling refreshed and relaxed afterwards?

The hardest task most of us have is relaxing enough to enjoy it. As an overly pampered hack who's been lucky enough to have the odd spa to review, I've relaxed into my work and been lightly pummeled and kneaded in the name of journalistic research. But on my last visit to a spa, I realized massages can have longer-lasting effects other than instant relaxation.

Deep tissue massages are a great way to get rid of knots in muscles and feel refreshed and relaxed. It's easy to empty your head and feel comfortable enough to drop off while on the massage table, dreaming of disembodied hands ridding your body of tight muscles.

The result on me has always been pretty much the same. I leave the spa with a happy, fuzzed-headed sense of calm to the point of feeling slightly zombiefied -- I've had to be careful not to walk into traffic.

However, my last massage had a sting in the tail. About 12 hours after feeling relaxed and at peace with the world, I felt awful.

I had a thumping headache, my whole body was sore and by turns I felt hot and sweaty or cold and shivery. This wasn't supposed to happen.

"A massage stimulates the parasympathetic part of the nervous system. It's this system that operates mainly when you're asleep encouraging your body to get rid of various toxins from your blood stream via sweat and the lymph system," said professional massage therapist Tom Taylor Bigg.

I had accrued quite a few toxins from the night before the massage thanks to a late night spent with a friend at various bars.

Add to that a busy day at work after the massage and my parasympathetic system unleashed a load of toxins that had hitherto been locked away and not really bothered me.

"As long as those effects don't last very long and you're sure you haven't got an illness, it shows that your massage was a good one, although a reaction with headaches and a temperature is stronger than most," said Taylor Bigg.

A massage then is a process that often lasts some hours after you have had the treatment as muscles begin to fully relax.

"The immediate effect of feeling great is about physical muscle relaxation, but you shouldn't forget there is a deeper and longer effect as well," said Taylor Bigg

In my case when the deep tissue massage stimulated the release of toxins it hit quite hard.

"You seemed to have a lot of toxins, and coupled with a lack of sleep, it can have that effect," said Taylor Bigg.

A tip to remember then before a massage is that you should be relaxed enough to get the full benefit of being relaxed. Oh, and don't stay up till the wee hours drinking various scotch-based drinks, otherwise something will have to give, and it will probably be you.


There's nothing else for you to do here so relax, dammit!

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