Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Top 10 Massage Myths

Awareness is growing that massage is a legitimate therapeutic treatment for a wide range of health and wellness conditions.  More and more studies are being commissioned demonstrating that massage can help reduce stress, contribute to injury rehabilitation and well-being, and improve one’s health.  New spas and massage centers are popping up all around the country.  The news is full of stories related to the benefits of bodywork.   All of this creates demand: last year alone, approximately 26.7 million Americans received a massage.

Yet, even despite the growing awareness and popularity, there are still a number of misconceptions about the practice that keep massage therapy from being seen as more than just an occasional treat for oneself. Regardless of how often you receive bodywork, let’s discuss some of the ideas that keep the use of massage therapy repressed. 
  1. It’s expensive.
    This is, of course, relative to where you live.  In places like lovely Los Angeles, where I currently call home, there are businesses such as the Massage Company or even small-time oriental shops that offer a full hour massage for around $40-$50 (plus tip). You do not have to attend a full service day spa or hire a private masseuse to get a massage. All you really need for a massage is a room, table, sheets, and a qualified therapist.  More and more businesses offering just these things scrap the spa experience entirely. These places do not have to deal with the overhead costs of running a spa and the savings are passed directly to the customer.
  2. But, it’s expensive.
    While above I was referring to price, now let’s talk about value. Again, this is also relative but imagine this: If your doctor told you to spend $60 a month, or $2 a day, on a well-tested medicine that could reduce your stress drastically, make you feel happier, and help your body (all factors leading to a longer, more fulfilling life) would you hesitate to take it, especially if just the act of taking the medicine were itself pleasurable? There are plenty of doctors and healthcare practitioners making those arguments about massage but the best test of all could just be trying it out to see for yourself how your body and mind respond to regular care.
  3. Getting a massage is a luxury.
    There was a time when getting a massage could be seen as luxurious, but those times are over precisely because the service is now readily available to the masses.  Getting a massage is only a luxury if you count taking care of yourself as a luxury.
  4. I don’t have the time.
    This could very well be true.  I think back on my first spa experience. I was given a gift certificate to go to Burke Williams spa and I was so busy that it took me many months before actually using it.  I kept saving my certificate for a time when I thought that I most needed it and by the time I did use it, I was already well beyond stressed out. If I knew then what I know now, I would have realized that it’s not a matter of having the time because there is never enough time.  It’s a matter of finding and forcing the time because it comes down to taking care of oneself so that you can take care of everything else.   
  5. It’s awkward.
    It is true that massage is an intimate experience.  A level of trust is required for both the client and the practitioner so just chose your massage center and/or therapist with intention.  Once that is established, look respectfully upon the massage therapist as an experienced mechanic trying to help you maintain your body. The most important thing to remember during a massage is that communication and your own comfort level is key. Massage also does not have to entail the removal of clothing. A well-trained therapist can exercise and bring relief to muscles by just moving your limbs, joints and body passively.
  6. I had a bad experience in the past so they must all be like that.
    Trained and professional therapists have broad experience with countless conditions, body-types, and preferences.  If you want more or less pressure, talk to your therapist about your needs.  It’s impossible for the therapist to know for certain what you prefer if you do not talk about it. You are paying for the massage, so play your role in making sure your needs clear.
  7. It hurts.
    This one is easy:  it’s not supposed to hurt.  Many people think that you’re supposed to feel pain to get benefit from a massage, in particular with deep tissue work.  However, the intent of deep tissue work is to work out adhesions and knots from the body by slowly burrowing into deeper layers of muscle tissue, not to beat the client up or leave bruises.  Deep tissue work may become slightly uncomfortable at some points pushing you to an edge, but you are not supposed to feel pain.  It is the therapist’s duty to move very slowly so that the client does not experience pain. 
  8. My therapist didn’t ask so I don’t have to tell.
    It’s the client’s responsibility to discuss their medical history with the therapist and it’s the therapist’s responsibility to inquire.  There are many conditions that are contraindicated for massage. Don’t put yourself or the therapist at risk by not discussing relevant medical history.
  9. My therapist is well-trained.
    Massage therapists may have gone to school for years or not at all. Trained massage therapists take classes in topics such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, CPR, body-mechanics, technique and professional ethics. After years of in-state fighting, the state of California only recently passed legislation defining the terms of massage licensing statewide.  Currently, in order to work in a spa and to call oneself a Certified Massage Practitioner (CMP), therapists need to have completed a minimum of 250 hours of training in an accredited massage school. Within the next few years, that number will increase to 500 hours, the level of hours needed to call oneself a Certified Massage Therapist (CMT).  The same rules are supposed to apply for independently operating therapists.  If you’re ever in doubt, just ask.  The difference between a trained and an untrained massage therapist could be the difference between a good and a bad massage. 
  10. The effects don’t last so why do it regularly?
    The effects of a massage may seem temporary, but what isn’t?  There is evidence that shows massage does create long-term positive biologic changes in the body. I see bodywork as progressive healing, one gift we can give to ourselves that does have an effect that can build in to something more with continued and committed practice.  The biggest argument for regular bodywork may be looking at who already gets regular bodywork... If I have to generalize, I would say that the majority of people I work on regularly either come from means or are body-aware individuals or athletes.  If those two groups of people are seeking regular massage therapy, doesn’t that also speak highly to the value of massage?


  1. Massage is very meaningful! You are directly contributing to the well-being of your patient with your own hands!

  2. Thanks for letting us know about this top ten massage myths and hopefully here provided all the info of massage myths helps me a lot and I would like to know in such myths more. So thank you. :)

  3. I am truly pleased to read this website posts which carries lots of helpful data, thanks for providing these kinds of statistics.

    Massage Dubai Al Barsha

  4. I love massages. This list of things to know is awesome!! I had one massage therapy Toronto that talked to me the plenary time - it was so comfortable for me.Now I really feel the need for a massage!!

  5. I am agree with you that massage can help reduce stress, contribute to injury rehabilitation and well-being, and improve one’s health. So it is very essential to our daily life. When someone's have stress, he/she can take it to remove this stress. Thanks

  6. The ancient civilizations of the Chinese, Egyptians, Hindus and Persians used massage therapy as a principal treatment for many an ailment. Now, the fact that Americans spend 6 billion dollars annually on massage therapy gives an idea of its popularity in treating a wide range of disorders.