Massage Myths

I have been a massage therapist for 12 years and I’ve heard all sorts of things attributed to massage that aren’t true. Some of these things get taught to people when they do massage courses. As a reasonable person, you would expect massage courses to be based on the science of anatomy and physiology, which they are to some extent. There is very little regulation of the complementary therapy industry, so pseudo-science and theories lacking in evidence are everywhere to be found. I have a strong belief in science and evidence and it saddens me that so few people in my industry take the view that ethics and truth should be upheld, even if it means you don’t get to take a client’s money quite so often.

Massage detoxes your body

Your liver is the main detox organ in your body. The kidneys, lungs and even your skin, help with this. Massage may help improve your circulation locally, but this does not speed up your body’s removal of toxins.

That spaced out/dizzy feeling after a massage is from toxins being released

The spaced out feeling is most likely due to your blood pressure dropping while you lie down. If you were feeling relaxed or were tired beforehand, you might feel especially dizzy when you get up. Not everyone feels this way after a massage. If we all released a load of toxins during a massage, we’d all feel the same and it would probably be bad for our bodies. The dizzy feeling will pass as you sit up and start getting dressed. Take it slowly and don’t rush.

You need to drink lots of water after a massage

There is no evidence to suggest that massage makes you lose fluid (unless you’ve had a sports massage and you were sweating from the pain or the therapy room was very hot). Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you need to drink. If you don’t feel thirsty after a massage, there’s no need to drink more.

You need sports massage to prevent a build up of lactic acid if you are training for an event

This is something I was taught when I studied sports massage. It is now thought that the body is actually quite efficient at removing lactic acid and it doesn’t build up. The discomfort you may feel in your muscles may be from overuse of the muscle fibres, rather than lactic acid.

Deep tissue massage is the same as sports massage

This is worrying because there are massage therapists who are taking appointments for sports massage without telling their clients that they are not trained to do it. The aim of a sports massage is to improve the health and performance of the muscle groups associated with a particular sport or type of training that the individual is doing. Deep tissue massage is one technique used in sports massage. When someone trains in sports massage, they also learn how to treat sports injuries and the training is a lot more in depth than the regular initial course in massage.

Deep tissue massage focuses on releasing tightness in the muscles and surrounding soft tissue. It can be relaxing or painful, depending on the individual. Sports massage is usually very painful. Most of my clients who book deep tissue massage have back pain and are fairly sedentary.

I have known massage therapists who have complained that places they work at keep booking people in for sports massage, when they haven’t trained in it. I’ve also seen independent massage therapists offering it but not adding the qualification to their list of diplomas.

Is it safe to have your neck pulled in traction?

No because there’s a risk of causing a stroke. This is a real risk and not me trying to scare you. Don’t allow a massage therapist to do this. I have been asked to do it and I always refuse. I may get you to turn your head to one side so I can work on your muscles, but I won’t pull your neck.

Can massage get rid of cellulite or help with weight loss?

Cellulite is natural. I think we focus too much on looking unnatural. I have had clients who are professional ballet dancers who have cellulite. Massage can’t break down cellulite. There is no magic solution and no magic lotion or oil that can penetrate or be absorbed all the way into your bloodstream in a concentrated way so as to destroy cellulite. There are creams that hydrate the skin cells, making them firmer (temporarily) and this may help the appearance of the skin. It is just on the surface and hasn’t done anything to reduce what lies beneath the skin.

Massage can’t make you lose weight. Reducing your calorie intake and increasing exercise are the best ways to lose weight, if you need to. If you have started doing more exercise, massage may help ease tightness in the muscles from doing new exercise and, in so doing, help you continue your exercise programme. I wish there was some magic massage techniques available because I would be using them on myself.


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