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.