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Last week I wrote a post on Facebook about some of the myths of massage. My statement on this issue was and continues to be that I am not accusing anyone of telling a deliberate lie, nor am I attacking the character of any teacher who has helped to perpetuate these myths. I choose to believe that everyone has good intentions.

Before I became interested in the evidence-based practice of massage, I’ve been just as guilty as sharing some of them myself. There seem to be so many of them, and in my opinion  people tend to blindly accept what they learn in massage school. We view teachers as authority figures, but the fact is, teachers have a tendency to repeat what they were taught in massage school…so they pass that on to their students, who in turn share that false information with their clients, with the best of intentions. Some of those same students go on to become the next generation of teachers, and those same myths just keep being perpetuated.

Yesterday I heard from Lee Kalpin of Ontario, who shared a few more of these massage myths with me. I am presenting them here, and if anyone has any valid research references that will back these up as fact, please feel free to post it for our enlightenment.

- Massage removes toxins from the muscles.

- Lactic acid is responsible for DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

- Massage can get rid of cellulite.

- It is contraindicated to massage a person who has cancer (or had cancer).

- If you massage a person who has consumed alcohol, it will increase the effects and make them more intoxicated.

- You can strengthen muscles by performing tapotement.

- You can straighten a scoliosis by doing tapotement on the weak side and stretching on the tight side.

- Manual Lymph Drainage causes the lymphatic channels to collapse for 20 minutes so you cannot do any other manipulations after MLD.

- You should never do more than 3 trigger point releases in a treatment (no reason stated for this one – it was just stated as a fact).

- Ischemic compression for trigger point release should be done as deep as possible.

- Only deep massage is therapeutically effective – as deep as possible. Lighter massage is just for relaxation.

- You should not massage pregnant women during the first trimester.

- You should not massage the feet and ankles of a pregnant woman as it may cause her to miscarry.

- Drinking lots of water flushes toxins out of the system – encourage the client to drink water after a massage.

- You cannot massage a person who has “high blood pressure” – definition needed about how high is high, and cause of hypertension.

- You must massage toward the heart or you could damage the heart valves.

- It is contraindicated to massage pitted edema.

I must say that I have heard all of these at one time or another. Where did they come from? I don’t know. As one FB friend said “I heard it from some reputable teachers.” And they probably heard it from their reputable teachers.  So let’s just let the buck stop with us. If the words “research shows” are going to come out of your mouth, then back that up with the actual research reference, and if you can’t produce any, don’t say it–to your students or to your clients. If all the evidence you need is that massage helps people feel better, then let that stand for itself and don’t make wild claims. And please, as I said above, if you have the research to prove any of these statements, share that with the rest of us.

Tags: LauraAllenMT, massage, myths, research

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This is ranging far off the thread, but I'm intrigued by what I've read about quantum physics...the theory that everything in the Universe is in effect in "communication" with everything else via magic strings or whatever-- they're now saying that quarks (or whatever the particles are called) actually travel faster than the speed of pure energy (i.e., light).  So, if any of that quantum stuff is true, perhaps there is something to the energy modalities.  Makes the mind spin to think about it.

Daniel Cohen said:
Getting up dated information from professional magazines and CE classes is a good reason we have them. They are part of professionalism. Misinformation corrects slowly but it does correct. A perhaps it is good that things change slowly since many studies are also revised or supplanted by others.
In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?

Haven't taken special pop massage yet, but I sat in a few sessions last quarter.  No, they don't teach that ankles can't be massaged--wonder who dreamed that one up. 

It's kinda funny, that class--it's hard to find enough pregnant volunteers, so it's often one client surrounded by students, one performs on the area being targeted that day while everyone else watches--the poor lady gets the same area massaged over and over again.  They enjoy the attention, but seem relieved when the class ends.

Gordon J. Wallis said:

In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507164405.htm         What do you think of this???  A MYTH???     Hmm...this must mean that the only think massage does is feel good? lol

Gary W Addis said:

Haven't taken special pop massage yet, but I sat in a few sessions last quarter.  No, they don't teach that ankles can't be massaged--wonder who dreamed that one up. 

It's kinda funny, that class--it's hard to find enough pregnant volunteers, so it's often one client surrounded by students, one performs on the area being targeted that day while everyone else watches--the poor lady gets the same area massaged over and over again.  They enjoy the attention, but seem relieved when the class ends.

Gordon J. Wallis said:

In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?

A recent article I read somewhere refuted that shoddy "scientific study."  (There were only 12 subjects in the study).  Despite the lead paragraph of the article, the study itself actually says very little about circulation, mentions it only passingly; but it does a good job of refuting the lactic acid myth--and that is a myth. 

Lactic acid isn't a waste product, it is a form of energy that is created during anaerobic exercise; within minutes of the end of the end of exercise it begins to evolve back into glycogen, or, if the exercise continues at a less intense pace, the lactic acid can be used immediately in aerobic exercise.

 

  There is just no way to conduct meaningful post exercise tests at competitions, because immediately after the lap or lift ends, the athletes walk around to cool off, etc. By the time they get to the table, normal body processes are being reestablished.  IOW, the high pulse rate induced  by the exercise is being brought down by negative feedback.  And why anyone want to increase the pulse rate AFTER the competition ends escapes me.  


Whoever wrote that article must think everyone is an idiot and doesn't understand that pulse rate IS circulation.


But as MTs know, massage does increase circulation to distal areas of bodies at rest, more apparently in people who live pretty sedentary lifestyles.  Don't know about you, Gordon, but I ain't never tried to massage anyone while he's bench pressing!    ;)

 

Gordon J. Wallis said:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507164405.htm         What do you think of this???  A MYTH???     Hmm...this must mean that the only think massage does is feel good? lol

Gary W Addis said:

Haven't taken special pop massage yet, but I sat in a few sessions last quarter.  No, they don't teach that ankles can't be massaged--wonder who dreamed that one up. 

It's kinda funny, that class--it's hard to find enough pregnant volunteers, so it's often one client surrounded by students, one performs on the area being targeted that day while everyone else watches--the poor lady gets the same area massaged over and over again.  They enjoy the attention, but seem relieved when the class ends.

Gordon J. Wallis said:

In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?

Gordon, here's a good link to a useful study

 

http://www.massagetherapyfoundation.org/pdf/Moraska%20%282005%29%20...

This only applies if edema is very bad. With minor edema it is beneficial. I was lucky to have a very thorough pregnancy class. We each had our own pregnant woman to work on. Mine was 2 days to 9 months. I like doing pregnancy massage. I introduce lactation consultants, provide materials on self perineal massage, and encourage a follow up post natal bonding massage for mother and baby which I developed from experience.

Two myths were told in the class though. 1) do not do certain reflexing on the ankle and thumb acupoints, I later learned in Asia this is an American Reflexology myth. These points are used only to stimulate contraction when dilation is already complete and of no use prior to that. 2) Don't massage during the first trimester. I am one of the few in this area (I have been told by pregnant women) who knowingly work at that stage. I work on women throughout pregnancy, This also I was taught in Asian bodywork where they laugh at the suggestion not to work at first trimester. The best I can figure as the origin is American fear of litigation as a cause of miscarriage. Has anyone ever been charged with this?

Gordon J. Wallis said:

In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?

If we stop trying to explain the what, how, why behind massage benefits do we really have a need for studies and evidence base? I believe, people are seeking out massage because there are increasing numbers of people who tell them how they benefit from massage (including Physicians) rather than the few who read a scientific study.

 

I mainly perform Korean Martial Therapy (Hwal Bup Do). It developed over 400 years ago on the battlefields of Korea as a method of quick recovery and return to battle. No one did clinical studies to determine if the warrior could reenter the battle, they experienced it. As modern science influenced people we doubt our experience even when it shows benefit without harm until someone invents measuring devices and a science based method of analysis to prove the experience actually happened repeatedly. What is this obsession?
Gordon J. Wallis said:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507164405.htm         What do you think of this???  A MYTH???     Hmm...this must mean that the only think massage does is feel good? lol

Gary W Addis said:

Haven't taken special pop massage yet, but I sat in a few sessions last quarter.  No, they don't teach that ankles can't be massaged--wonder who dreamed that one up. 

It's kinda funny, that class--it's hard to find enough pregnant volunteers, so it's often one client surrounded by students, one performs on the area being targeted that day while everyone else watches--the poor lady gets the same area massaged over and over again.  They enjoy the attention, but seem relieved when the class ends.

Gordon J. Wallis said:

In the massage schools now.  Do they teach that you can't massage a pregnant women's ankles?  Who teaches that?

Hi Gary,

LOL!  I think you about answered your own question -" ...there are few ironclad rules..." The massage I do is a holistic approach that does not separate one tissue or system from another.

I previously stated that I believe in evidence-based massage, however, all the evidence I need is, "Does it help my client feel and or function better?" That's what it all comes down to for me, making it all better.
Gary W Addis said:

But, a question.  Isn't one reason for not working lightly away from the heart, not the valves in BVs, but the one-way valves in the more superficial lymphatic system?  In DT/NMT I've been taught that, yes, it is alright to work proximal to distal for a specific purpose, a few inches working one tight band, but for long strokes, MFR, whatever, we should work toward the heart.   


In the first few months of MT school, we were taught to stay away from endangerment sites, to work this way and not that way. Later, as we became more knowledgeable and far more skilled, they taught us, as Art Riggs points out in his books and articles, that there are few ironclad rules in TMB.


Linda LePelley said:


Well, I'm not discussing a specific modality, I gave a generalized response to a generalized statement. I gave it under the assumption that we are all trained massage therapists who know to perform our deeper strokes towards the heart, not away from, as well as we know lighter strokes are fine in any direction. My whole point was simply that we can't forget to be careful of the one-way valves in veins, which is an easily verified fact.

By the way, I very much agree with the statement you made, "

some people get so wrapped up in how something is said they don't hear why it is said. Why not just leave it at "massage can do a body good, give it a try"? It constantly amazes me to what degree we can devolve into the infinitesimal."
When I attended massage school it was taught not to massage the ankles because of the meridian that runs through the ankle and the likelihood of a problem arising. It was taught to be safe rather than sorry and to avoid the area until a certain point of gestation.
Thank you for this post. There are many of these statements that I have heard and will take the time to thoroughly investigate because I want to stop sharing information which may not be true. Thank you once again.
Laura, some of these are simply priceless!

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