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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.

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My question is what modality is being discussed. Do you mean long strokes down the arm, on the torso, going up the neck? Does it relate to a specific modality. Do you mean if over major veins going deep? It is not all the same.

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."
Thank you, Generalized statements about massage with the wide variation in modalities and applications is just a pet peeve of mine. I read so many research studies that say massage "did not produce any change evident in comparison with the control group" and they never define the massage applied as if this study is all inclusive.

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."
I agree, that is very exasperating!
And the evidence based research that details the application, which is one you never do with that modality in that manner for that time segment. ..... sigh.

Linda LePelley said:
I agree, that is very exasperating!

Winter quarter, I'll study reflexology; this quarter it's Eastern modalities--shiatsu, mostly.  I'm probably wrong to be expressing an opinion without having studied it, but I am...skeptical about the whole energy meridian thing.  Having said that, when I am really "in the zone" with a client, I do feel a connection that exceeds the mere physical.  Sometimes, it's an outward flow from me (or the Universe?) into the client, sometimes it feels as if the tension is leaving the client and disappearing into the atmosphere.  Is this Eastern massage in action?   Will I feel this...whatever... even more intensely when I've been taught shiatsu, and the locations of the 12 meridians?  Time will tell, I suppose-- I can't condemn something I don't understand.  

 

But I surely do love a good foot rub.  Like Gordon, and Laura, I can't quite rap my mind around the idea that all the organs in the body have a corresponding point in the foot.  With this qualification: gout is the accumulation of uric acid crystals built up in the farthest point of the body--the great toe.  Stands to reason that other "stuff" could also be pulled into the feet via gravity or whatever.  I have bad hearing, and often massage the corresponding areas of the feet, without any noticeable improvement.  But I do surely love a good foot rub. :)

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."
I too have read the articles refuting the flushing thing.  But uric acid settling into, and crystallizing in, the feet is a fact.  So, maybe there's a wee bit of truth within the myth?  Fallacy or not, however, as several have pointed out, we all need to drink more water, so "perpetrating" this myth may do some good if it encourages clients who drink colas and tea and coffee and don't drink one glass of water per week to hydrate.  BTW, I've read recently that caffeine is NOT a diuretic.  Other truths may be disproven, other old truths may one day be revived and affirmed.

Jason David Bratcher said:
Pease educate us as to why this is a "myth" and please back it up with some medical journal links and or clinical study research. So far I am not convinced and you state that you are a 20 + yr veteran of massage therapy. Please share with us the knowledge that doing something for that long brings with professional rhetoric. If this is to be a forum of exchanges in ideas and opinions let's try our best to keep the ego and arrogance out of it.
Many respects,
J.
If we are dispelling myths shouldn't we be referring to studies that back up supposition? For example how many pounds of pressure does it take to damage a valve and what modality applies that much for the repetitions needed and the direction. As for lymph flow your belt, underwire bra, elastic bands (socks, girdle, underwear, etc probably do more to restrict superficial lymph flow than any form of about one hour massage.
Your comment makes sense.  In the end, I think experience is the better teacher (I wish I had more).

Daniel Cohen said:
If we are dispelling myths shouldn't we be referring to studies that back up supposition? For example how many pounds of pressure does it take to damage a valve and what modality applies that much for the repetitions needed and the direction. As for lymph flow your belt, underwire bra, elastic bands (socks, girdle, underwear, etc probably do more to restrict superficial lymph flow than any form of about one hour massage.
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. Perhaps it is good that things change slowly since many studies are also revised or supplanted by others.
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.

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