Four Massage Myths Debunked

There are a lot of funny claims floating out there. Not just in the comments section of any news article online but among massage therapists and their clients or potential clients. While I believe that all massage therapist are well meaning when they spread information, sometimes they’re just...well...wrong. It can be time consuming to stay up to date with the latest science and often what we learn in school is stickier than whatever new information is thrown at us.

Of course, it’s not always the fault of us LMTs. Somebody heard from their cousin’s best friend’s hairdresser that massage caused her daughter to grow an extra limb and a rumor and “fact” is born. (I wish this were true, I would have at least eight extra arms by now. OCTOMASSAGE!)

So this month I wanted to address some of the more prevalent massage myths out there.

I’m sure there are more out there. Do me a favor and leave a comment on what you’ve heard about massage that you’re not sure if it’s true or not, yeah?

MYTH ONE: MASSAGE REMOVES TOXINS

This is the mother of all massage myths. It was stated by well-meaning massage therapists for years before good ol’ science came in to disprove it. Yet the myth remains and is still spread from therapists to client to the general public.

First, I propose we banish the word “toxins” from the internet. Toxic means poisonous and if you are a reasonably healthy individual you are not toxic. Your muscles are not toxic. And massage has not just pressed out dangerous acidic juice from your tissues like lemonade. What many of these therapists mean when they say “toxins” is actually lactic acid, though they are often still misinformed about what lactic acid is. We hear “acid” and think “bad”, but really it’s just a product created through the usual functioning of your muscles. Lactic acid is constantly being created and used as fuel in your body. It’s also NOT what causes soreness after exercise.

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This article has a much more in depth description of what lactic acid is and what it does.

Our bodies are pretty awesome and they know what they’re doing. If you have a true “toxin” in your body, it knows how to get rid of or process it. This is why we have livers, kidneys and (I’m sorry) regurgitation.

SO WHY DO SO MASSAGE THERAPISTS SAY TO DRINK WATER AFTER A MASSAGE?

A few reasons. Either they’re still of the camp that are uninformed about the “toxins” malarkey and really do believe that water will help flush those non-existent toxins out. Or they’re being hospitable and it’s nice to have some cold water when you’re trying to come out of massage la-la land. Water is good for you, drink it.

 

MYTH TWO: MASSAGE HAS TO HURT TO BE EFFECTIVE

Wouldn’t you know it, I created a whole video on just this myth last month.


 

MYTH THREE: PREGNANT WOMEN CAN’T HAVE MASSAGE IN THEIR FIRST TRIMESTER

This one was still kind of iffy when I went to massage school but when I took a continuing education course specifically on prenatal massage was disproven. It’s completely safe for women to have massage during their first trimester and throughout their entire pregnancy.

The fears that many massage therapists have is that of “causing” a miscarriage or at the very least being the last person to touch the woman in a professional capacity before she suffers a miscarriage which most often occur during the first trimester. Miscarriages are very rarely caused by something the woman did or did not do. Most often, the embryo is simply not viable or the woman has other risk factors. Massage has not been found to be causative of miscarriage.

The only thing that could keep a newly pregnant woman off the table is nausea. Unfortunately, massage can’t help with morning (or all day) sickness. It’s up to the client whether massage is going to be comfortable with that condition. Always let your massage therapist know if you need to stop the session for ANY reason...especially barfing.

Another point to add - message can’t induce labor either. Which I’ve sadly had to tell a few friends and clients a week past their due date. Sorry, ladies.

 

MYTH FOUR: MASSAGE SPREADS CANCER CELLS

To be honest, I had never heard this myth until I started doing some research for this article. But since it apparently had been swimming out there on the internet at some point I figured I’d touch base about it here. The truth is pretty simple here: it doesn’t. Cancer spreads through changes to the cells DNA, not through movement of the lymphatic fluid (which can be affected by massage)

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Massage can actually have great benefits for cancer patients, including decreasing pain and improving sleep. I’d highly recommend seeking out a massage therapist specifically trained in Oncology Massage, though, because there are special considerations to be taken to make sure the massage is as safe as possible.

 

SOURCES

Ingraham, Paul. “Why Drink Water After Massage?” Pain Science, 29 Feb. 2016, www.painscience.com/articles/drinking-water-after-massage.php.

Stillerman, Elaine. “Prenatal Massage During the First Trimester.” Massage Today, Jan. 2006, www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=13354.

Sumler, Sat-Siri, and Lorenzo Cohen. “The benefits of oncology massage.” Cancerwise Blog, MD Anderson Cancer Center, 20 July 2010, www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/2010/07/the-benefits-of-oncology-massage-1.html.

Walton, Tracy. “5 Myths and Truths about Massage Therapy.” Massage Therapy Foundation, mtf.amtamassage.org/wp-content/uploads/5-Myths-and-Truths-about-Massage-Therapy_final.pdf.

Molly Kerrigan