Myths about Massage that are 'Wrong.'

Massage Therapy has many wonderful and therapeutic benefits but the advice or cautions that wind up being shared are often inaccurate. What we hear can be a little misleading, so, I thought I'd take on the role of 'Masage ' today and discuss what's real and what's not.

Let me know if you have your own favorite Massage Therapy Myth, or illusions that have been shattered in the course of manual therapy. I love the good stuff.

Myth #1 - The sign of a really good massage is that you feel quite sore the day after

Everyone is different and some people are more sensitive than others but just because you don't feel sore the next day doesn't mean you had a bad massage.  Furthermore, there should be different things expected from different types of massage. Why? Because the techniques and the results or goals of the session are DIFFERENT. The sign of a good massage is that you feel better than you did before - it may take a while to feel the full benefits but you should experience some of the following:

  • Relaxation 
  • Renewed energy 
  • Increased mobility or flexibility of the area of the body 'worked' on
  • Difference in tension levels - do you 'feel better.'
  • Less pain 
  • Better sleep
  • Alertness 
  • Reduction in headaches

Myth #2 - You shouldn't have a massage if you're pregnant

Massage Therapy does not induce an early labor and is perfectly safe for both mother and baby during normal pregnancies. Most physicians (and yes, you need to let your doctor know before you go!) will support massage after the first trimester and right up until the due-date. High risk pregnancies are handled a little differently, but not much - if everything is communicated up front.  It can be extremely beneficial for the Mom-to-be and offer a way to relax and unwind during a physically and mentally tiring time.

Normal aches and pains from pregnancy, can be dealt with and if the therapist is trained, there is no danger to the mother or the baby. More complicated situations can also be handled - but that requires an advanced understanding and training around pregnancy and the impact on the female body.

Post-natal massage can be equally beneficial, and for those are are interested in 'naps' during the day it is ideal (generally six weeks after birth - with a doctor's note again)! Ask your Massage Therapist about Pre-natal massage and other forms of appropriate therapy to help both before and after your baby is born.  

Myth #3 - Massage will get rid of cellulite 

If Massage Therapists could really banish cellulite we'd never see a dimpled thigh ever again. And when I have clients that come in wanting to reduce water retention and ' discussing,' if I know how to help them get a 'thigh-gap,' to look more shapely...I stop listening, and you will never get an answer from me. This is NOT my area of expertise, or interest.

However, cellulite is persistent subcutaneous fat and it's appearance. It is found mainly in women, or they seem to care more, and the 'texture' is determined by hormonal factors, genetics, diet and lifestyle.  Eating a healthy, low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and taking regular exercise is the best option to prevent and reduce the appearance of cellulite.  Massage is an excellent addition to your healthy lifestyle and wellness routine, and good circulation is good for the SKIN, HEART and whatever else ails you.

Myth #4 - Toxins can be flushed out of the body via Massage

This is an interesting Myth, which while popular and interesting, is completely false. The body processes excess waste (by-products of food, drink, airborne pollutants etc.) in a variety of ways i.e. sweat, urine, faeces, or if you're ill by vomiting.  Your liver, kidneys and skin do a remarkable job of getting rid of these 'toxins' on a daily basis and keeping the skin, muscles and fascia of the body (including joints) free and balanced.  Massage does, however, increase blood supply to various parts of the body and can regenerate a lack-lustre circulation. This helps move things around and replaces 'things dislodged by massage' - collagen from adhesions, lactic acid from workouts, and lymph from injury sites. 

This may be what is actually being referred to when someone is talking about toxins - the by products and 'waste' not needed by the body. These things are actually replaced by the nutrients that the body needs - which circulation also brings in. So, it's a one-for-one exchange. Drinking water is a pleasant thing to do after a massage (we like ours with a slice of lime or cucumber) and is a great reminder to drink more fluids that aren't laced with sugar, colorings or other additives. Eating a healthy, again, focusing on a low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber and taking regular exercise is the best option to prevent and reduce the toxins and inflammation (caused by diet imbalance).  Massage is an excellent addition to your healthy lifestyle and wellness routine, and good circulation is good for the SKIN, HEART and whatever else ails you.

Myth #5 - You shouldn't get a massage if you have cancer

Many Massage Therapists and cancer patients have often fallen foul of this myth.  Until recently, it was assumed that the action of massage could actively spread cancer cells throughout the body.  However, it DOES NOT. Therapist who receive training, and the general public should now realize that cancer cells are caused by the body's immune system malfunctioning, they cannot be spread or increased through manual contact. Cells that turn cancerous will do so regardless of massage therapy stimulus, and there is no way the contact between therapist and the client will cause cancer cells to move through the body then the same could be said of any form of exercise.

On the other hand, Massage Therapists need to be 'trained and knowledgeable' about the impact of Massage Techniques appropriate for work on tissues going through Chemotherapy, Radiation and other types of drugs associated with Oncology. This is an advanced technique that needs to have specific ways of working the patients in an appropriate manner - much like lymphatics and other types of techniques that actively work on areas that are injured.

Myth #6 - You shouldn't get a massage during 'workout' cycles

Many Massage Therapists and athletes have often run into issues with clients who have athletic trainers that tell their athletes - 'don't get a massage you'll be too relaxed or flexible.'  Until recently, it was assumed that the action of massage could impact the muscle fiber pliability, and lead to injury during heavy and continuous workout cycles. However,  most techniques DO NOT have a negative impact on the 'proprioception' of the brain, the biomechanics of sports movement and how the athlete performs. There will be a positive impact, and the return of full range of motion and movement capability may be different, but managed regularly as part of the work out cycle - the Athlete and the "Athlete's brain" will get used to the new normal without incident. They will also REMAIN INJURY FREE.

In fact if therapists have received 'sports' training, and understand the muscle recovery and cycle of activity there should be no functional impact,  on the athlete. This should encourage athletes and trainers alike to focus a small amount of their strategy on 'recovery,' instead of letting it happen without purpose or intent. Regardless of massage therapy stimulus, and techniques, recovery in the form of relaxation of muscles and reduction of stimulus or stress on the body on a regular basis will increase performance and prevent injury.  Relaxation and the 'optimization' of the body should be the goal of any form of massage.

What Massage Therapy Myths have you heard recently?  What misconceptions about Massage would you like to dispel?  Share them with us here in the comments section (below), our Facebook page, twitter account or Instagram account.