Can A Massage Cause Diarrhea? What Other Massage After Effects You Need To Know

Massage is mainly associated with relaxed and happy feelings. But there is more to it as one can discover. After getting a couple of massages, you, too, may notice some similarities in the way that you feel afterward. This is known as the massage after-effects. Many massage after-effects can take place. But if we are honest, you are here to find out if you can get diarrhea from massage. And that is exactly why I am here. Let’s see what is causing diarrhea after the massage.

Can a massage cause diarrhea?

Massage happens to cause many effects, some more pleasant than others. As I have discovered, one of those effects is diarrhea. Yes, you read that right. But please do not let that discourage you from booking a pleasant, relaxing massage appointment.

The reason why digestive issues may take place after a massage is its ability to cleanse the body from any build-up toxins. The most common after-effect is nausea. Some experience being bloated after message and nausea right after the massage. For some, it can take up to a few days for nausea to pass. But others have it worse. There are people, like me, that have had their share of post-massage diarrhea.

This is still no reason to cancel that massage appointment. It is considered to be a natural thing. To understand that, you first need to understand the meaning of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. While the sympathetic nervous system focuses on survival, the parasympathetic one focuses on soothing sensations. It is through the activation of the parasympathetic system that we can feel more relaxed and recover.

During the massage, the sympathetic nervous system is said to turn off. It allows the opportunity for the parasympathetic one to turn on. This slows down the breathing and the blood flow while it speeds up the digestion. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system in combination with the repeated strokes on the lower torso during a massage helps stimulate the large intestine.

In return, a larger and/or more frequent bowel movements may take place. And so, we experience post-massage diarrhea. It is especially common to experience diarrhea after deep tissue massage. Understandably, deep tissue massage uses bigger pressure to stimulate all of the body parts that are in the focus of therapy. But diarrhea, compared to the instant anxiety and stress relief that happens due to the activation of the parasympathetic system, is nothing.

What are some other common massage after-effects?

Other than diarrhea, other potential massage after-effects may take place. While diarrhea may be the most embarrassing one, you may find the others being just as uncomfortable. But I said it once, and I will say it again. Do not allow these potential after-effects to change your mind about massage. Massage is a great self-care method, one that we need more of in our daily life. Instead of buying expensive make-up and clothes, I would advise you to invest that money in weekly massages. But more on that later. For now, let’s focus on what could go wrong after a massage, other than diarrhea, that is.

  • Muscle soreness

Probably the most common massage after effect is muscle soreness, especially after getting a deep tissue massage. The muscle soreness may develop as soon as a few hours after a massage. It typically lasts no longer than a few days, and it is similar to the muscle soreness after a good workout. Most of the time, this is not something that should be worrying you. It simply means that the massage therapist has been treating muscles that are not commonly manipulated or touched.

What happens is micro-tearing in the muscles due to the manipulation. Deep tissue massage is famous for causing this kind of tearing in the muscles. This micro-tearing is similar to the one that happens during exercise. That is why I mentioned that muscle soreness is similar to these two activities.

In all my years getting massages, the majority of times, I have been waking up to sore muscles the next day. For me, this is a way to know that my therapist has been doing their job. And it is something that puts a smile on my face. If the muscle soreness is bothering you, here is a little tip. Make sure that you ice the muscles that have been treated as soon as you come back home. Doing some light stretching exercises can help against soreness and pain as well. I prefer doing light yoga right before bed to allow my body to absorb all of the yummy nutrients during the night.

  • Sleepiness

Another after-effect that I love is the feeling of sleepiness. Sleepiness takes over my body, not only during but also after the massage is done. You may be surprised to learn that many people fall asleep during a massage. And if that has happened to you too, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Again, it is all about the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that is causing us to feel relaxed and sleepy, that’s why tired after message. With your thinking mind getting a break, your body relaxes and takes a long-needed breath. I would say to embrace this feeling. Feeling sleepy after a massage, even tired after the massage is typical. I encourage you to take advantage of this feeling—one way to do that by booking your massage appointment near closing times. By relaxing your body and mind before you go to bed, you can fall asleep faster and sleep better during the night. Those feelings will be increased by pairing up light yoga, a hot shower, and a relaxing massage before your bedtime.

  • Headache

Now, this is one of those after deep tissue massage effects that I do not like. I believe there is hardly anyone that likes to experience headaches at what is supposed to be the most relaxing time of the day for them. But headaches do happen. As I mentioned earlier, this is happening mostly due to deep tissue massage.

I am not going to lie – I have experienced a headache once or twice. And I have to say that it has interrupted the relaxed state that I was supposed to be in. As my therapist explained, headaches often occur due to improper head positioning during the treatment. In fact, she even apologized for not fixing the positioning of my head herself. She also suggested that I visit the chiropractor nearby if this happens again. So that would be the tip that I would give you too. Ask your therapist if your head positioning is right. Also, do consult a chiropractor if needed. In the meantime, a cup of herbal tea and a quick nap could help. And if you absolutely cannot stand it, simply take a pain-reliever.

  • Skin redness

As you probably know, massage works by stimulating blood circulation. To do that, the massage therapist is applying pressure. This will naturally cause some skin redness to occur. Think of skin redness as a good sign. Like muscle soreness, skin redness is also an indicator that the massage is working.

Some people tend to experience more severe skin redness than others. Take me as an example. My pale skin turns red instantly. But I do not mind it. After some time, the skin redness goes away, and my skin goes back to normal. There is really nothing to do other than waiting it out to pass.

  • Mood changes

Probably my favorite after massage effect is feeling as my mood changes. Massage has the power to light my mood up instantly. All of that oxytocin hits my brain, and I feel more relaxed and happier than ever. Even if my boss has been yelling at me at work. Or maybe my boyfriend forgot our anniversary. No worries, I will just book myself a massage and everything will be alright.

Massage helps bring the cortisol, or the stress hormone levels down. At the same time, it boosts the oxytocin, or the happy hormone, levels up. For me, massage is even better than chocolate when it comes to fixing my mood. And it is healthier for my body too. If you also happen to struggle with high cortisol levels, give massage a chance.


There are many health benefits happening thanks to massage. Relaxation, stimulation of the blood flow and the lymphatic system, and improved muscle tension are some of the bigger ones. But what nobody will tell you are the potential after-effects. While massage does not cause any serious harm, when done properly, that is, it is still important that we discuss these after-effects.

I, myself, have had my share of after-effects. That does not mean that I have forsaken massage. It simply means that I am not informed about all of these after-effects and know how to act in their presence. Like icing my sore muscles or taking a nap when I experienced fatigue after the massage. I hope that you will find my tips helpful and use them to make this whole experience even a better one.

Author: P. Sze

P. Sze P. Sze is the founder of TCM Tips and Dragon Acupuncture®. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first-class honor in Civil Engineering. S he also holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is the brain behind the innovative TCM products of Dragon Acupuncture®. She is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Auricular Therapy: Application of Ear Seeds (ISBN 978-1520451398) and Facial Gua Sha - Fight the Signs of Aging Naturally and Inexpensively (ISBN 978-1980678922). She has dedicated her life to ensuring that the complex theories behind oriental medicine and the seemingly dangerous techniques that involve needles and fire do not scare you from trying oriental medicine. This is why she writes endlessly about acupressure and its countless health and wellness benefits.

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