Common Massage Myths
by dan billick
Today we’re going to separate all of the pesky massage myths that have popped up over the years. By the end of this blog, you’ll release the tension between whats not true and knot true!
Massage Therapy increases the spread of cancer cells.
FALSE. There is no evidence to suggest receiving massage therapy increases the number of cancer cells in the body and/or spreads the growth throughout the body. In fact, the exact opposite is true! According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and American Massage Therapist Association - patients undergoing cancer treatment(s) actually benefit greatly from massage! Benefits include: reduction of nausea, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. Patients with “touch-avoidance” or have physical boundaries can benefit from the use of Reflexology.
Pregnant women cannot receive massage therapy.
FALSE. Generally speaking, massage therapy is highly beneficial for expecting mothers in their 2nd or 3rd trimester (after Week 14). Massage therapy, in conjunction with your medical team (Ob/Gyn, General Practitioner, Doula, Midwife, etc…), is an excellent way to reduce stress hormones, aches/pain, and/or insomnia. Overall, Prenatal Massage techniques take place with the mother-to-be in a “side-lying” position with light to moderate pressure throughout the body.
Highly reputable medical research institutions like The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and The Cleveland Clinic offer specific recommendations for Prenatal Massage as an integral element to improving quality of life during pregnancy. Ask your medical provider about how massage therapy can increase the birthing experience for you or your partner.
Feeling “sore” after a massage = good massage.
FALSE. I consider myself a pretty savvy and thrifty consumer: I work very hard to earn a living and want to make sure I’m getting my moneys worth. And when this comes to massage, other value-driven clients, like myself, wanna get as much massage as possible! This leads to clients who “want to feel it” or “like the pain” asking for deeper, harder, or more intense techniques than is necessary. The phrase “different strokes, for different folks” could not be more applicable than here. It is not always appropriate to use intense or painful techniques to receive therapeutic benefit.
A combination of variables, unique to each client, will help the LMT determine their strategy for reaching client goals. Different issues: knots, strains, aches, tension, headaches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc… can be addressed in several ways. Different therapist specialties: Reiki, Swedish, Deep Tissue, Rolfing, Thai, Aromatherapy, etc… span a wide spectrum of intensity.
David Lauterstein, one of my mentors and founders of the Lauterstein Conway Massage School & Clinic, has a wonderful outline of the various “dimensions of touch.”
Both client and therapist can help each other by clearly communicating any questions/issues, session goals, and boundaries before beginning the session.
Massage will “flush toxins out of the body.”
50/50. While there is currently no research showing a direct link between receiving massage therapy and removing toxins from the body, studies have linked massage therapy with increased blood circulation throughout the body. While the manipulation of soft tissues (massage) may not reduce toxin levels directly, it will make the body’s circulation more efficient and therefore more effective at removing waste products. The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine
outlines the benefits of massage after exertion. Another great reference linking massage & circulation: Physico.co.uk Massage Therapy Benefits.
You are not allowed to talk or make requests during the massage.
FALSE. This could not be further from the truth! Communication is key to a productive massage session. A good therapist will “check-in” with their client, especially new clients, about pace, pressure, and focus areas.
I like to tell my clients, “This is your time. We can spend it on one bump or the whole body.” Whether you need to let it all out & vent to your therapist or be left to your own thoughts in peace & quiet, just let your therapist know and they’ll be happy to oblige. This is your time. :)
Massage therapy will boost my immune system.
50/50. The human body is a marvel to behold. It is an intricate arrangement of cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems operating on an infinite scale of variables. This is to say, definitive research showing a direct link between massage therapy & immune system performance is highly complex. At this time, reputable studies have linked increased white blood cell (aka “natural killer cells”) production and massage. However, those with a compromised immune system should discuss any concerns with their doctor about including alternative therapies like massage into their treatment plan.
Massage therapy benefits are short term.
FALSE. Massage therapy is very effective for short-term, acute issues (strain, sprain, knots, tension,etc..) as well as long-term, chronic issues (arthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, depression, etc…). The manipulation of soft-tissues, muscles will have an immediate impact on range of motion, functionality, and pain levels. Additionally, getting regular massage can improve posture, flexibility, and overall sense of well-being.