Massage Therapy; Separating Myths from Facts
Massage therapy has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments.
In fact, archaeological evidence of various massage techniques has been found in many ancient civilizations including Greece, Rome, and Egypt. The popularity of massage therapy continues to grow. But how much do you know about this healing therapy? Even though massage has been around for centuries, many misconceptions are still out there. Continue reading to separate myth from reality.
Myth: Massage is only for relaxation.
Reality: Massage therapy is often very relaxing. It promotes a sense of well-being and calm, and many people schedule a therapeutic massage to decrease stress and relax. But massage therapy also has many more benefits. Massage can be helpful in treating a variety of problems including headaches, back pain, and digestive disorders. It is often recommended to treat conditions, such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and soft tissue injuries.
Myth: All types of massage are the same.
Reality: There are several types of therapeutic massage including hot stone, Swedish, and deep tissue. Hot stone massage involves using warmed stones placed on specific points on the body while performing a massage. Swedish massage involves broad strokes to relax the body and release tension. Deep tissue massage targets the deep layers of connective tissue and muscle to ease pain and release knots. Different types of massage may be beneficial for certain conditions.
Myth: Anyone can give a therapeutic massage.
Reality: While anyone can give a backrub, a therapeutic massage is another story. Massage therapists go through extensive training and take classes, such as anatomy, neuromuscular therapy, and pathology. Licensing requirements for massage therapists vary by state (or registered massage therapy in Canada), but hands-on experience providing massage is also required. Many therapists also continue their education and receive advanced training in prenatal massage, lymphatic drainage massage, and myofascial release.
Myth: Massage can induce a miscarriage in pregnant women.
Reality: There has been no evidence that massage can induce a miscarriage in a pregnant woman. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises pregnant women to talk with their doctor before scheduling a massage just to make sure there are no contraindications. It’s also best to have a massage from a therapist who has studied prenatal massage. For most women, massage can ease aches and pain, swelling, and discomforts, which are common during pregnancy.
Myth: Massage releases toxins from the body.
Reality: Flushing toxins from the body sounds helpful. After all, who wouldn’t want toxins gone? But there is no scientific evidence that massage therapy removes toxins from the body. In fact, it’s difficult to say what the ambiguous toxins even are. While massage therapy has many benefits, releasing toxins is probably not one of them.
Myth: Massage therapy has to hurt to help.
Reality: Some types of massage such as trigger point massage involve applying firm pressure. But massage does not have to be painful to have benefits. This myth may have started because some forms of massage, such as deep tissue, may be slightly uncomfortable. But a massage does not have to make you wince to be effective. In fact, if a massage is too painful, it may do more harm than good. Some people also think you must be sore the next day for the massage to be effective. But next day soreness is not an indicator of a good massage.
Myth: Massage therapy is based on pseudoscience.
Reality: Hopefully, long gone are the days when massage therapy was thought of as “new age quackery”. The many benefits of therapeutic massage have been proven by several scientific studies and continue to be researched. For example, some studies have indicated that massage therapy may boost immune system function, decrease stress hormone levels, and improve circulation. Massage has also been shown to help treat many conditions, such as depression, gastrointestinal issues, and insomnia.
Myth: Only adults benefit from therapeutic massage.
Reality: Children and babies can also benefit from massage therapy. Massage is a non-invasive way to treat several conditions that may affect children. Massage can boost the immune system, ease digestive problems, and improve sleep. Older children and teens who are active in sports may find massage beneficial. Just like it does in adults, massage therapy can ease pain, promote relaxation, and improve circulation in children. Children with sleep disorders, anxiety, and asthma may especially benefit from therapeutic massage.
Myth: You don’t need to tell your massage therapist anything about your health.
Reality: While you certainly have the right to keep all health details private, it’s helpful to share certain things with your massage therapist. For example, you may have certain areas of your body that should be avoided, which your therapist needs to be aware of. While you should always only share what you feel comfortable with, the more a therapist knows about your health, the better he or she can provide treatment.