"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent than history - dreams are more powerful than facts - hope always triumphs over experience - laughter is the cure for grief - love is stronger than death."
Myths, Myths, Myths!
Look in a dictionary, or google it, this is how "MYTH" is defined: An invented story, idea, or concept”, or “An unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.”I have been in the massage therapy profession for awhile now and I have heard so many things which have become part of the belief system of massage therapy. Some of them I actually believe myself for years until I stumble upon a research that says otherwise, or I was corrected by someone. Some are very common and some I have never heard before! Some of them are actually funny! Some, not so funny, but I am making fun of it anyways!
Here are 18 of them I have collected so far! I will add more if I find some, or leave a comment at the bottom if you have something to add! You might be guilty in at least one of them!
- Leo Feraer-Oporto
Myths of Massage Therapy
Top 1: Lactic acid is responsible for DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and massage can remove lactic acid from the muscles. It used to be thought that lactic acid was responsible for DOMS. We now know that blood circulation removes lactic acid from muscles within a few seconds, and it is not responsible for DOMS. The pain that we actually feel after 24 to 72 hours are due to inflammation on the muscle involved - in response to micro-tears in the fiber of that muscle. Micro-tears occur if the muscle undergo strenuous activity that it is not accustomed to. Our bodies immediate response is to repair the micro-tears - a.k.a. the inflammatory response mechanism! Hence pain, tenderness, soreness - classic symptom of Inflammation. Other symptoms of Inflammation: Redness, Warmth and Swelling! You have heard this before: DOLOR, RUBOR, CALOR, TUMOR - pain, redness, heat and swelling respectively. They all can/may appear in DOMS!
Top 2: Massage removes toxins from the muscles. The word “toxins” is rarely used properly or defined in any way and has come to be used as a CATCH-ALL word for anything bad or unhealthy that may be in the body, some tried to be specific and use "FREE RADICALS". No matter what may be meant by the word “toxins”, there is no way that massage can pump or push the “bad stuff” out of muscles. Only semi-permeable membranes of the cell can do that! If you push deep and hard thinking that deep tissue massage can squeeze out this toxin - you will end up rupturing some of this cell-membrane and the fragile capillaries! - we call it a BRUISE! Duh!
Top 3: Encourage the client to drink water "after" a massage. After being the keyword. Even if you drink a gallon of water, you will just pee the excess! The body has its own way of balancing fluids in the body - called homeostasis. You need to drink enough water per day as to NOT become dehydrated. Period. For some it is 6-8 glasses, for some it is more or less! If toxins were in the blood stream, drinking water would not remove them – it is not as if the body is a pipe clogged with sludge that a cup of water will flush through! It’s fine to offer your client a drink of water: just don’t encourage false beliefs about toxins.
Along with the “toxin myths” above, there is often the belief that massage releases toxins into the system and they must be flushed out with water. The circulatory system is not as simple as that! As far as Physiology is concerned, only the blood can carry a "dissolved" substance around or all over the body. Dissolved substances as in, the ones that are absorbed into the bloodstream, like blood gases, nutrients, electrolytes, metabolic wastes products or medications. If, in fact, the client had toxins in their system this would be a serious health crisis and the client would have to go to the Emergency Department immediately - THEY ARE DIALIZED. You need a buffering solution directly injected to a shunt on an extremity to "FLUSH" out REAL toxin out of the body! - and the process is called - you've guess it! DIALYSIS! Massage Session is over! Here is a glass of water! It will dialize you! LOL
Top 4: Massage Causes Dehydration: Yeah it does - IF YOU ARE THE ONE GIVING IT FOR LIKE 8 SESSIONS IN A ROW AND YOU FORGOT TO DRINK ENOUGH WATER!!! Some therapists insist that their clients drink water because they believe that people become dehydrated during massage. This is very unlikely, unless the massage is done in a SAUNA room! There are several ways in which the body can lose water: by sweating, or through excess urination or diarrhea. None of these things are likely to have happened in the massage room. If it does, it will be a lot of mess! (LOL) Well, your client can lose a small amount of moisture through evaporation when they breath! Inhale, exhale, please drink some water! Duh!
Top 5: This is a favorite treatment in some spas and salons. LIPOSSAGE! Lipids and cellulites are encapsulated inside fat cells called lipocytes. You need to rupture them, if you want to remove excess fat - say through LIPOSUCTION! Cellulite is FAT and it would be very nice to think that we could get rid of our fat by having a massage! However, there are only two ways to get rid of fat: by exercising and by eating less! (Or plastic surgery! - got $5000.00?)
Top 6: It is contraindicated for someone who have or had cancer to get a massage. This myth originated in the days before it was known how cancer spread from one part of the body to another. It was thought that the cancer cells could be spread through the circulation or lymphatic system. We now know that cancer is a malfunction of the immune system, and cells metastasize to various organs that have affinity for that particular type of cancer. Massage will not move the cells, any more than regular exercise would spread the cells through the body.
Top 7: If you massage a person who has consumed alcohol, it will increase the effects and make them more intoxicated. It is contraindicated to massage a person who is intoxicated, for various reasons. Clients may be less aware of sensation and may tolerate a much deeper massage than they should. He or she may fall asleep and be unaware of the depth of massage. Or the person may become aggressive or unpleasant! But a person who has consumed a small amount of alcohol (like a glass of wine) will not become more intoxicated than they were prior to the massage.
Top 8: Ischemic compression for trigger point release should be done as deep as possible! Does pain cure another pain? Many people believe that trigger point compression has to be painful to be effective. The pressure needs to be deep enough to cause “ischemia” – in other words, to temporarily cut off blood supply to that area of the muscle. Once ischemia has been created, there is no point to applying more pressure. You do not need to press a ton of pressure to create blanching on soft tissue - try it on yourself! Moderate pressure is usually enough!
Top 9: No more Than Three Trigger Points. So, if I have 5, you will only address 3? Can I have a refund please!!! Another trigger point myth I have heard is that 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) and there is no rationale for it. Maybe the therapist got tired, because trigger point therapy is physically demanding! Session is over, please come back for the last two trigger points!
Top 10: Deep, deeper and deepest treatments – It must be Deep to be a Massage! Only deep massage is therapeutically effective – as deep as possible. Dig in there! Lighter massage is just for relaxation! Really? Truth of the matter is: depth of treatment is totally subjective. What one client perceives as deep massage seems light to another person. Basically, most people think that if they feel pain, they are receiving deep massage - so if an experience Massage Therapist is doing the "NOT" so applicable technique using light pressure, and pains the client - is that deep massage? JAB that client with the point of your elbow! DEEP MASSAGE right? NAH! If you go too deep - you will cause micro-tearing of the soft tissue - hence you cause soreness to the client after 24-72 hours - PLEASE GO TO TOP 1! I do not like DOMS. As a client, would you?
Top 11: High Blood Pressure – It will Cause a Heart Attack! OMG! You cannot massage a person who has “high blood pressure”? This myth does not define how high the blood pressure reading is. What must be considered are the causes of hypertension and the general health of the client? If a client’s hypertension is well controlled with medication, then they can receive the same massage as anyone else. Is the person on blood pressure medication, how long have they been on the medication? In general a blood pressure greater than 159/99 is a contra- indication to treatment. Isn't it why we have an intake interview?
Top 12: Pregnancy – You should not massage pregnant women during the first trimester. This idea is impossible to enforce! Many women do not know they are pregnant until the second or third month, by which time they may have already had, say... 5 massages at least! Massage therapy is no harder on the body than regular exercise and activities. Should a pregnant woman stop exercising or doing household chores as well! Hey husband, can you please do the laundry, then the dishes, then vacuum the carpet, then pick up the kids from school! I do not know any pregnant women who just sat still - so why skip that very therapeutic massage!
Top 13: You can strengthen muscles by performing tapotement: Tapotement my a*s I want to be J-Lo!! You can straighten a scoliosis by doing tapotement on the weak side and stretching on the tight side. Huh? That is the same as saying that doing tapotement on a stomach will create me a six pack abs. Okay, done with my gluteals? Please proceed to my abdomen! Can you tapote my biceps too! I am going to compete in Pro-body building! The truth is that only resistance type exercises will help to maintain or improve strength. Short-term tapotement - which is about 6-10 strikes increases the tone of the muscle because the muscle will tend to guard itself. 30 seconds or longer of tapotement - Long term tapotement will induce the muscle to just give up guarding itself, lower its tone and relax! Long-term tapotement also overload the pain receptors of the body, hence it has some analgesic effect! Can I have another refund, my behind does not look like J-Lo yet!
Top 14: Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) Causes Lymph Channels To Collapse: If you put too much pressure, then, YES, you will collapse them! That is why MLD -Manual Lymph Drainage should be done with a pressure comparable to that of the weight of a penny! YES a penny! That is how annoyingly light it should be done! It is not legal to perform MLD if you are not certified! Wrong MLD to a Healthy person is just a general massage! Wrong MLD to a person with a compromised Lymphatic System (a.k.a. lymphedema) is a lawsuit waiting to happen! And oh!, it is not legal to perform one in some states, if you are not certified!
Top 15: You should not massage the feet and ankles of a pregnant woman as it may cause her to miscarry. Why? Is it because there are many contraindicated acupressure points or Tsubos on the feet? Maybe. Or you might tickle them too much, they may jump off the massage table then miscarry! Kidding! NOPE, foot reflexology massage done right is actually very good for pregnant women who cannot tolerate lying whichever way down.
Top 16: You must massage toward the heart or you could damage the heart valves. So how are you supposed to do massage on the back? Okay, I will not react on this one! There is just no way of putting this together! LOL
Top 17: It is contraindicated to massage pitted edema. Pitting edema, Anasarca, Lymphedema, fluid accumulation in the extraxellular space, blah, blah! If you are certified to do it - it is actually on the contrary is indicated and beneficial to the client!
Top 18: You can only do ischemic compression for one minute – after that the muscle will die, or something. I will just laugh this one out!
If you have any more myths, that may be funny, silly or just plain stupid, share it! Feel free to comment at the bottom!
- Leo Feraer-Oporto