Some folk relay misinformation with such confidence that even the most cynical amongst us fall for it. Know-it-all neighbours and friends aside, the reach and freedom of the internet means fabricated truths now spread easier than ever before. But worry not, our expert therapists have taken a look at some of the most common misconceptions about massage and debunked those myths with actual facts.
This myth professes that the beneficial effects of massage increase proportionally with the force applied by the therapist. That is just plain nonsense. When it comes to massage therapy, the old saying “no pain, no gain” does not apply.
Effective massage therapy is about applying a level of pressure which is appropriate to and commensurate with the aim of the treatment. Sometimes deeper pressure can be more beneficial, however massage should never be so strong that it is painful.
Research has also shown that mammals enjoy a gentle touch which is often emotionally comforting and beneficial from a psychological aspect.
Even though massage is at least 5,000 years old, labelling it obsolete is simply wrong. Just because something has been around for many ages, does not mean it is no longer useful. Massage is still widely used around the world for relaxation therapy as well being the treatment of choice for maintaining or restoring physical and emotional health through natural means.
Far from being outdated, massage has actually been increasing in popularity over the last 20 years. In fact, Thai massage was recently added to the prestigious Unesco heritage list meaning it has been recognised as something to be preserved for future generations to also benefit from.
Contrary to allegations of massage being an airy-fairy therapy without genuine medical benefits, independent scientific research has shown that massage can boost the immune system. Massage techniques are designed not only to relax and soothe but also to initiate positive reactions in the body’s circulatory, digestive, nervous and lymphatic systems.
As a result, participants in the research showed increased levels of stress busting hormones in their bloodstream, reduced inflammation and, crucially for disease prevention, an increase the count of white blood cells.
Treatment styles like lymphatic drainage use specific techniques which are designed to invigorate the body’s lymphatic system, improve metabolism and increase general energy levels. Even more relaxation based styles, such as the classic Swedish massage, can offer medical benefits by reducing anxiety and improving mood.
This is a well-known but somewhat unique myth in that it is often conjured up by the individual themselves rather than being heard as a rumour. No surprise then that it also happens to be one of the top embarrassing questions about massage.
Regardless of origin, our expert therapists can confidently confirm that it does not matter what your body looks like - period. You may think that you are too wrinkly, too hairy or even too fat to receive a massage, but a professional massage therapist simply does not care about these kinds of aesthetic features. A difference in body type may be relevant to the type of treatment that is most suitable, but general physical attractiveness has no relevance at all in therapeutic massage.
There is nobody more qualified to debunk this myth than professional massage therapists themselves. It helps to understand the basics first: good therapists smile a lot. Therapist often have a happy, optimistic and empathetic persona that likes being around and touching others. It’s what makes them become a therapist in the first place!
So, if your therapist is smiling at you during a treatment, rest assured this is actually nothing unusual. Sadly (or happily, depending on your disposition) it does not necessarily indicate that they are attracted to you. They may however like you and that is no bad thing. In fact, we suggest you follow these secret tips to make your therapist like you more for the best possible massage.
This myth seems to have originated from people who do not regularly receive massages and have only had the occasional massage as a holiday treat.
Whilst shorter treatments (from 5-minute office chair massages to the ubiquitous 60-minute Swedish massage) are commonplace, most experienced professional therapists agree that the minimum sensible duration for a full body therapeutic massage is 90-minutes.
A longer duration allows the therapist adequate time to perform a meaningful full body treatment that includes proper warming up and warming down stages either side of the main massage. Having properly warmed muscles, therapists are then able to safely use more intensive techniques with deeper pressure to manipulate muscles, invigorate blood flow and stimulate various other bodily systems. Massage durations of two hours are popular with those who want an intensive treatment mixed with soothing relaxation elements or a combination massage, such as the popular Thai-Oil Combo.
This myth has some elements of truth but is not entirely accurate. Most medical experts agree that women should avoid being massaged during the first three months of becoming pregnant but go on to say that it is safe to receive a massage when pregnant during the second and third trimesters.
In fact, contrary to being criticised, the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynaecology published an article stating that pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. The assessed group reported reduced anxiety, less pain and better mood relative to those that had not received regular massages.
So, massage is appropriate for pregnant women as long as it is performed by an appropriately qualified professional and after the first trimester has passed.
There is no scientific basis for the myth that children should not be massaged. In fact, studies have shown that baby massage is effective in increasing the mother–infant attachment and qualified professionals operate around the world teaching parents how to properly massage their children.
The inclusion of natural methods to improve infant health would seem a wholesome and sensible approach which would have few opposers. However, the myth that children should not be massaged is still believed by some. As in most things in life, appropriate attention and common sense should be applied when massaging children, but properly performed it is an excellent way to maintain good physical health and bond families closer together.
So hey presto, 8 popular myths about massage debunked with expert advice. Feel free to add your own in the comments below. If you have been holding off massage because of any of the above myths, we hope you now feel more informed about the facts and can move on and enjoy a therapeutic treatment worry free for better health all round.