As the cobwebs of winter dissipate with spring’s rainfall, the human body has its own way of adjusting to longer hours of daylight and increases in the outside temperature. By getting rid of the dirt that has accrued over the colder months, the tradition of spring cleaning promotes clean homes across the continents. Similarly, many realize spring as the ideal season to rid their body of the toxins accumulated over winter. Known specifically for their internal cleansing properties, certain bodywork techniques have the ability to support this ritualistic detoxification.

Chinese medical theory teaches its students that the energy in the liver organ system is most active in the spring. As the first line of defense against accumulated poisons, the liver’s role in cleansing the blood makes it one of the most important targets for detoxification. According to Denver naturopath and yoga instructor Brenna Hatami, “Spring represents the best time of year for cleansing the body for many reasons.” Hatami cites the availability of lighter foods, milder weather enticing more people outdoors and the enhanced regenerative properties of the liver as contributing to spring’s history as the season where people return to health.

Today, with more toxins in the environment than ever, “it’s critical to detox,” says Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D., the author of Detoxification (Healthy Healing Publications). Page recommends detoxifying for symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, sluggish elimination, irritated skin, allergies or low-grade infections, bags under the eyes, a distended stomach even if the rest of your body is thin, menstrual difficulties or mental confusion.

Among advocates of detoxification, there is dissension about what constitutes the ideal detoxification regimen. However, any program that augments the removal of toxins will improve health. Depending on who is consulted, a plan for detoxification may involve many factors, including:

  • A highly specialized diet – often organic, vegetarian and low-fat
  • Fasting
  • Herbal supplements
  • Bodywork
  • Colonics
  • Perspiration practices
  • Increased water consumption
  • Physical activity

While no one method is sufficient for a complete system overhaul, combining several detoxification approaches always enhances toxin removal quantity.

Bodywork to Detoxify

There are a number of different massage therapy techniques that encourage detoxification. While a case for impurity elimination can be constructed for many of these approaches, three kinds of bodywork are known to be especially supportive of detoxification:

  1. Shiatsu for the Liver – Based on the meridian network mapped by Traditional Chinese Medicine, stimulating points along the liver channel help stimulate this organ to be a more efficient blood purifier. Performing shiatsu on Liver 3, the source point of the liver, is especially effective in increasing the blood circulation and thus purification capacity of this organ.
  2. Lymphatic Drainage Massage – Integral to detoxification, the lymphatic system sequesters circulating threats in the body and aids in their elimination. Thus, draining the lymph nodes of accumulated toxins with lymphatic drainage massage removes blockages and improves their cleansing function.
  3. Swedish Massage – Because the circulation resulting from Swedish massage enhances oxygen exchange among local tissues and improves colon drainage capability, this is a good addition for helping escort impurities out of the body.

Bodywork Caution

Massage therapists working with clients undergoing an intense detoxification program must be aware of the potential for a Herxheimer reaction. The Herxheimer reaction occurs when the body is detoxifying too rapidly, causing toxins to be released faster than the body can eliminate them. When this occurs, symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting and malaise typically ensue. Although a Herxheimer reaction is short-lived, it can be severe enough for a client to stop detoxification.

To minimize this problem, advise clients undergoing detoxification to:

  • proceed with their detox program slowly
  • drink lots of pure water
  • avoid exposure to environmental toxins
  • avoid eating refined, processed foods
  • abstain from alcohol
  • perspire through exercise or taking a sauna/steam bath

Encourage established or potential clients to take advantage of spring’s momentum by cleansing themselves of the toxins residing within. As long as bodyworkers are careful to circumvent a Herxheimer reaction, shiatsu for the liver, lymphatic drainage massage and Swedish massage are the perfect accompaniments to someone’s internal spring cleaning.

Recommended Study:

Shiatsu Anma Therapy
Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Swedish Massage

References: , Detoxification Details, Ted H. Spence, DDS, ND, PhD/DSc, MPH,, 2008., 10 Ways to Detoxify Your Body, Deborahann Smith, Gaiam Inc., 2008.

Marty, Diane M., Detox Days, Body Sense, Spring/Summer 2004., Detox – Why You Need To Start Now, How to Detox, 2008., Emotional Spring Cleaning, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Natural Wellness, 2008., Massage Eases Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, Massage Magazine, March/April 2005., Detox Massage for Body Cleansing, Sandra Kim Leong, 2008.