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There are several myths of massage that seem to be passed down through generations of massage therapy teachers. I am going to list a few of my favourites, and hope you will add yours.I'm sure there are lots more. Let's dispell the myths and teach fact-based massage therapy!

1. Massage releases lactic acid from the muscles
2. We cannot treat clients with cancer as massage will spread the cancer through the body
3. A crooked spine (scoliosis) can be straightened by doing tapotement on the "weak" side of the spine and relaxing massage on the "tight" side of the spine
4. We cannot do manual lymph drainage and effleurage in one treatment as the lymph nodes will shut down and the client's legs and arms will swell up

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Regarding #3, I've never done tapotement for that....and by the time someone is an adult, I don't know that anything is going to work. I have always tried lengthening the muscles on the inside of the curve, and with infants and children have had some success with that. I've never thought or claimed that I could "straighten" scoliosis, but I have seen improvements in younger people. A former student of mine had a daughter with a severe case, and for her graduation project she worked on her for months and documented it with photographs. She'll never have a normal spine, but the work made a pretty drastic difference that was evident in the pictures.
Another one is about Epsom salts baths relieving soreness after a massage. Paul Ingraham has posted an article on his website about that one and a number of other myths. He said he actually got a lot of hate mail about it. He didn't realize people would get so whacked out over something as ordinary as Epsom salts.
Thanks for contributing this, Laura. Amazing how people can be so invested in their myths!!!

Laura Allen said:
Another one is about Epsom salts baths relieving soreness after a massage. Paul Ingraham has posted an article on his website about that one and a number of other myths. He said he actually got a lot of hate mail about it. He didn't realize people would get so whacked out over something as ordinary as Epsom salts.
That used to be taught in some schools. The idea was that tapotement would "stimulate" the weak muscles and make them stronger. The only way muscles can be made stronger is by exercise.
You are correct of course, Some positive changes can be made during childhood or adolescence. Once a person is fully grown the treatment is about relieving pain/ maintaining function

Laura Allen said:
Regarding #3, I've never done tapotement for that....and by the time someone is an adult, I don't know that anything is going to work. I have always tried lengthening the muscles on the inside of the curve, and with infants and children have had some success with that. I've never thought or claimed that I could "straighten" scoliosis, but I have seen improvements in younger people. A former student of mine had a daughter with a severe case, and for her graduation project she worked on her for months and documented it with photographs. She'll never have a normal spine, but the work made a pretty drastic difference that was evident in the pictures.
As more research is done that isn't biased, we will continue to find there are things we were taught that aren't valid. Unfortunately, many of the things that were shown to be invalid many years ago are still being taught.

For example, I would take Paul Ingraham's site with a grain of salt. On his section about working the occiputs, he writes:

"The exact centre is the one spot where you might not get a positive reaction. There is a small hollow there, right at the top of the spine. To some people, pressure on this spot — which is not actually even muscular — will be sweet bliss."

He goes on to encourage the therapist to apply firm pressure directly in the soft region right in the middle of the occipital triangle.

This is taught to be an endangerment site as there is the vertebral artery runs horizontal in there from coming up the sides of the vertebrae and also spinal nerves. Digging around in that area is not a good idea. Looking at anatomy videos and through my anatomy books, I don't agree with that endorsement. (Although I will say that it is hard finding good breakdown of the anatomy of the occipital triangle!)

Tom Myers recently wrote an article about his experiences at the 2nd International Fascial Conference and I really liked something he said toward the end of his article, which was:
"..."Can you show me why I failed this patient" is a much more interesting question than "Can you confirm my prejudice about why I am succeeding with these patients."

Basically, as therapists we have to question a lot of what we hear, whether it be from someone we agree or disagree with. It's our responsibility to look into the work as we are able to discern for ourselves, and it's not easy especially if we don't have good resources or connections to find out about those resources.
Thank you for your insightful comments. That is my point entirely - question what you read, question what you are told, try it in your own practice if it seems like a good and sensible technique and make careful observations as to whether it works.
My concern is with massage therapists, massage therapy student and teachers who do NOT question. A teacher tells them something and they do it forever,- or refuse to do it because they were told it is a contraindication. When I ask what is their reference source, I find that they have never even tried to research it.
It is not always easy to find the good reference sources, but today with internet it is easier than it has ever been in the past. Also, if a teacher or lecturer teaches you something, ask for THEIR reference source, and then check it out.
Rajam K Roose said:
As more research is done that isn't biased, we will continue to find there are things we were taught that aren't valid. Unfortunately, many of the things that were shown to be invalid many years ago are still being taught.

For example, I would take Paul Ingraham's site with a grain of salt. On his section about working the occiputs, he writes:

"The exact centre is the one spot where you might not get a positive reaction. There is a small hollow there, right at the top of the spine. To some people, pressure on this spot — which is not actually even muscular — will be sweet bliss."

He goes on to encourage the therapist to apply firm pressure directly in the soft region right in the middle of the occipital triangle.

This is taught to be an endangerment site as there is the vertebral artery runs horizontal in there from coming up the sides of the vertebrae and also spinal nerves. Digging around in that area is not a good idea. Looking at anatomy videos and through my anatomy books, I don't agree with that endorsement. (Although I will say that it is hard finding good breakdown of the anatomy of the occipital triangle!)

Tom Myers recently wrote an article about his experiences at the 2nd International Fascial Conference and I really liked something he said toward the end of his article, which was:
"..."Can you show me why I failed this patient" is a much more interesting question than "Can you confirm my prejudice about why I am succeeding with these patients."

Basically, as therapists we have to question a lot of what we hear, whether it be from someone we agree or disagree with. It's our responsibility to look into the work as we are able to discern for ourselves, and it's not easy especially if we don't have good resources or connections to find out about those resources.
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I wanted to add a myth that was busted by James Waslaski: you can only massage in the direction of the heart. James has a vascular surgeon on his research board who confirmed the above.
that's intesting. Can you give some more specific information? I have always taught that we EFFLEURAGE the extremities toward the heart (or toward either the lymph nodes in the axilla or the groin). Same with MLD.
What were you taught regarding direction of massage, and what did this doctor say that was different?

Jody C. Hutchinson said:
I wanted to add a myth that was busted by James Waslaski: you can only massage in the direction of the heart. James has a vascular surgeon on his research board who confirmed the above.
I receive a lot of MLD from the therapist in my office, and that is what she does.

lee kalpin said:
that's intesting. Can you give some more specific information? I have always taught that we EFFLEURAGE the extremities toward the heart (or toward either the lymph nodes in the axilla or the groin). Same with MLD.
What were you taught regarding direction of massage, and what did this doctor say that was different?

Jody C. Hutchinson said:
I wanted to add a myth that was busted by James Waslaski: you can only massage in the direction of the heart. James has a vascular surgeon on his research board who confirmed the above.
I agree Laura. MLD is always done toward the lymph nodes (from distal to proximal). Has the vascular specialist said anything different? If so, what is the rationale?

Laura Allen said:
I receive a lot of MLD from the therapist in my office, and that is what she does.

lee kalpin said:
that's intesting. Can you give some more specific information? I have always taught that we EFFLEURAGE the extremities toward the heart (or toward either the lymph nodes in the axilla or the groin). Same with MLD.
What were you taught regarding direction of massage, and what did this doctor say that was different?

Jody C. Hutchinson said:
I wanted to add a myth that was busted by James Waslaski: you can only massage in the direction of the heart. James has a vascular surgeon on his research board who confirmed the above.
There are also numerous myths about treating pregnant women with massage. One is that you shouldn't give a pregnant woman massage during the first trimester. Silly, because most women don't even know they are pregnant until they are at least 2 months pregnant, or maybe 3 months. So if they are regular massage clients, they have had a lot of massage by then. Anyone know any other pregnancy massage myths?
Even amongst themselves they disagree--I know reflexology teachers/practitioners from different camps---some say avoid putting any pressure on the medial malleolus until near the end of the pregnancy because it is a uterine point and that stimulating it could cause a miscarriage....others say it doesn't matter.

I had never heard that tale about no massage in the first trimester until just a few weeks ago when another therapist mentioned it. That wasn't taught in my school. I was amazed to hear such a thing. As far as I know, all the pregnant women (and their babies) I've massaged in the past decade survived without incident.

lee kalpin said:
There are also numerous myths about treating pregnant women with massage. One is that you shouldn't give a pregnant woman massage during the first trimester. Silly, because most women don't even know they are pregnant until they are at least 2 months pregnant, or maybe 3 months. So if they are regular massage clients, they have had a lot of massage by then. Anyone know any other pregnancy massage myths?

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