Debunking Massage Myths that Scare Clients the Most
It’s shocking that more Americans are not taking advantage of the preventative and healing benefits of massage because people have fears and misconceptions about massage.
Massage is a drug-free, non-invasive, humanistic approach to wellness, based on the body's natural ability to heal itself. It may also be of help in treating high blood pressure, lower back pain, post-surgical care, arthritis and depression. But even when there is not a specific health issue, massage can have other benefits, including:
- Increased circulation
- Stimulation of the lymph system, the body's natural defense against toxins
- Release of endorphins, the body's natural painkiller
- Improved range of motion and decreased discomfort in back muscles
- Relaxation of injured and overused muscles
- Reduced muscle spasms and cramping
- Increased joint flexibility
- Aid in recovering from strenuous workouts
- Reduced post-operative adhesions and edema, as well as reduced scar tissue
Yet in 2015, a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) found only 19 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported having a massage in the past 12 months. Now that’s a frightening statistic!
Eric Stephenson is the director of education at iMassage.com, and has been a consultant for Elements Massage™ (Elements) since 2009. He says there are many misconceptions about massage therapy people need to be educated about. Topping the list, you have to get naked.
“Exposure is game changer for many people, especially for first-time clients,” says Stephenson. “There is a power differential between a therapist and client. People feel vulnerable when they take off their clothes. It’s important for people to know that there are proper draping techniques that therapists are trained in, and that the amount of clothing a person wears during a massage is optional. They can be fully clothed if they prefer. This is totally up to the client.”
Clients who have concerns should ask the massage studio or spa about its draping policy and what to expect during a massage to ensure their modesty is protected at all times.
#2 Body Image Issues
Many people avoid massage because they are uncomfortable with how they look. They think they are too heavy, too thin, they forgot to shave their legs, or have been traumatized by a past experience that makes touch by others stressful and difficult. A good massage therapist is never judgmental and may very well have a team of local specialists who they can refer troubled clients to.
#3 It’s Too Expensive
Cost is subjective for most people. If massage is important, it can be as simple as a trade-off, substituting a massage for two or three meals out during the month. Stephenson also says franchise organizations like Elements have brought the cost of massage down and carved out a niche for people who are cost-sensitive. Membership programs and incentives can bring costs down even further.
#4 Massage Hurts
Massage therapists typically offer a variety of pressures and types of massage. Swedish massage for example, is typically more relaxing, whereas deep tissue and sports massage might be more oriented to helping cope with injuries and sore muscles. Massage clients should be able to ask for what they want in any session.
For example, Element’s therapists are taught to ask clients about the amount of pressure to apply within the first five minutes of a massage. Clients who believe in the old adage, “no pain, no gain” can ask for deep pressure, or those who wish for a relaxing massage are encouraged to state their preferences and give their massage therapist direction throughout the session. If a therapist is not receptive, it might be wise to seek a different therapist.
#5 I Need to go to a Therapist Often to Get Any Results
While it’s true that therapists may recommend more frequent massages for certain conditions, such as back pain or Plantar Fasciitis, the goal is to leverage massage therapy for healing, so that clients can achieve a maintenance level where fewer massages are necessary.
#6 Gender Bias
The ratio of women to men receiving massages used to be about 80:20, but not anymore. Men have become more savvy about the health benefits and they have more location options. The franchise model has helped in this area as well. Men no longer have to go to female-dominated health and beauty spas for a massage. There are also more male massage therapists in the workforce, so individuals who feel more comfortable seeing massage therapists of the same sex can do so.
#7 Drink Lots of Water
There was a time when it was believed drinking water before and after a massage would eliminate toxins from the body. This has been debunked. Many therapists still offer water to clients, but only for hydration. Everything in moderation is typically better for your overall health and well-being.
#8 Prenatal Massage is Dangerous
While it was believed that pregnant women should not get a massage, particularly in the first trimester, this belief most likely came about because more miscarriages occur during this time and many massage studio owners wanted to avoid this offering for liability reasons. Now, therapists are being trained and certified in prenatal massage and the risks are minimal.
A Simple Truth about Massage Therapy
As society embraces preventative care as a way to allay the need for medical treatment, the use of massage therapy as part of a wellness program continues to grow. It is a way of treating pain without medication. It can relieve anxiety and stress, and may lessen the risk of stress-causing diseases. As research continues to uncover the medical benefits of massage, it is important to note that its therapeutic advantages also come with some pleasant side effects.
“Massage is great way to come back to the soothing benefits of touch,” adds Stephenson. “Babies cannot survive without touch, so why do we deprive ourselves as adults?”