MBLEX

Massage: MBLEX, Body Mechanics & Communication

When I went to massage school very little was spent on body mechanics, technique or communication. Instead the class room experience focused on the MBLEX (the licensing exam every massage therapist must take to become a licensed practitioner). I understand the weight this test is supposed to play in a massage therapist’s career and public safety. However, when put on a scale with body mechanics, technique and communication, we quickly see how this kind of educational practice is not in the best interest of the community, industry or the massage therapist.

Body Mechanics is essential, if we don’t know how to massage someone without hurting ourselves we won’t be massaging very long. When I went to massage school there was very little time spent on body mechanics. If you asked the teachers they would claim they were focused on ensuring students were given the skills necessary to protect their body.  How can an instructor be teaching students to have good body mechanics if they aren’t watching them? During the class room portion of my education the teacher would sit at their desk grading papers or talking while the students massaged on their practice tables. Little to no observation was employed to ensure students were using correct mechanics. During clinicals, when students performed massages on the public or each other, the instructor’s ability to observe was greatly diminished because they were required to help other students study for the MBLEX. Massage therapy is a hands on learning experience, requiring an incredible amount of observation and repetition, without these kinds of practices a massage student will have a difficult time becoming a massage therapist with a long healthy career.

Practicing massage in the class room should begin early, be performed regularly and have a fair amount of instructor involvement. When going through school we rarely performed massages, when we did it was irregular and the instructor seemed disinterested in maintaining a constant role helping students learn, explore and become more effective. When I asked why we didn’t practice massage very often, the answer was “we would get our hands on experience while doing our clinical work“. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, most our clinical experience was just a continuation of the classroom and nearly every hour was spent studying for the MBLEX.

The MBLEX is not the end all be all test of massage therapy. It reflects some aspects of our ability to showcase our academic knowledge. More specifically it tests a person’s ability to access obscure information, apply critical thought and sit patiently in front of a computer. These skills do not easily translate into practical massage applications. I am an avid researcher and I love knowledge, passing the MBLEX was a breeze and though I thought the test was fun I have discovered its relevance has little to no value. With a few changes the test could be made a lot more valuable to our clientele, the massage industry and the therapist. One being the elimination of questions supporting pseuodoscience, others would be to test a student’s research knowledge, writing and literacy. These are all valuable skills a massage therapist needs in the field. Unfortunately no time was spent in my  schooling teaching students how to research, critically think or write effectively. In class our teacher spoke a lot about how to write SOAP notes, but no time was spent teaching us how to write them or testing our ability to write.

The biggest and most important part of massage is communication. Great massages happen because a massage therapist knows how to effectively communicate. If a client doesn’t feel comfortable telling us how the pressure is, if the table is too warm, if a heat pack is too hot or they want a specific area massaged, we will never be able to provide them with the experience they are looking for. When I went to school we had a course on communication, but it wasn’t very involved and there was very little participation for a communication course. When I heard we were going to do some role-playing I was excited, this kind of learning is a lot of fun and can be a great way of discovering how others explore life. Unfortunately we only spent about 2 hours on communication with maybe an hour of role-playing.  Most of the time was spent justifying why we did what we did instead of trying out a bunch of likely or hard situations. If more time was spent on communication I believe we could more easily meet the expectations of our clientele, reduce workplace conflicts and make life more enjoyable for everyone.

The MBLEX is an important test, but in many ways its has a negative impact on the industry. I believe with a few changes it can occupy the purpose it was meant to. By removing the pseudoscience it supports, adding questions that evaluate research knowledge, writing and literacy, we can begin moving our industry forward. This would be the first step with later steps involving the removal of the Provisional License (which is a grace period that encourages lower quality education in our massage schools.) and the creation of policies that enforce massage schools to provide the education they are selling.


Research

What are the Benefits of Massage

Bowen Technique 

Looyen Work

Rolfing

Pain Science

Shawn White Blog

benefit

Massage is amazing, but what are its benefits?

Why do you get a massage? For most it’s to feel amazing, get pampered or alleviate some ache or pain. Some go for the human contact, others want a holistic guide. Ultimately, we go to relax and feel better. It is a luxury, a costly endeavor, but worth every penny.

Often the massage industry sells unrealistic expectations and false hopes. Chains and businesses deify their therapists and claim benefits beyond their ability and scope. This creates a problem for the massage market. Through a cocktail of falsehoods and ineffective practitioners the public’s faith in our abilities will slowly deteriorate until there is no market to massage.

Where is the problem most often found? If you look closely you will see it within the modalities pushed as continuing education units throughout the community.

What are Modalities

A modality is a massage method employed to achieve a specific result, using branded techniques and underlying theories.

There are many modalities, such as: the Bowen technique, Looyen Work, myofascial realease, Rolfing, Swedish Massage and applied kinesiology. Dozens and dozens of modalities exist and all are equally ineffective and based on make-believe.

What makes them based on make-believe?

Would you like to improve circulation, stimulate your lymph system or increase your body’s ability to fight pathogens? Well look no further! My catchall generic massage modality has you covered!

These claims are made by nearly every massage modality. With a few sciency sounding words they expand the supposed benefits of massage. They attempt to convince the public a massage therapist’s role is equally important as doctors and nurses. Some target people with serious illnesses like cancer, ALS, MS and women suffering with endometriosis. Claiming their modality can treat and sometimes cure these illnesses.

I find these claims deplorable and so should the massage community, but by and large they don’t.

Why don’t they have a problem with it?

Most are so under-educated they don’t understand why these claims are terrible. Others are selfish and will do whatever they can to get an edge and some just don’t care.

The best way to resolve this is to eradicate the modalities, but that will never happen. Instead we can educate the public and future therapists to advocate for themselves and embrace science-based knowledge. Lets start by addressing the actual benefits of massage.

What are the benefits of massage

  1. It can down regulate the sympathetic nervous system.
  2. It feels great.

I believe it is natural to search for the truth, and I believe we should reach for the stars. The best way to understand our world and the celestial bodies beyond is with the scientific method. This process has paved the way for society to engineer lifesaving technologies that have saved countless lives.

It is healthy to desire knowledge and to ask why. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to ask why or what science is. Many massage therapists are never taught the scientific method, how to research or critically think. This is a serious problem and it paves the way for pseudo-medicine to continually infest our industry.

What are some claims massage modalities make?

I have created a list of the most common claims made by massage modalities. The lined out entries are those not supported by science-based evidence.

  • Increased circulation.
  • Increases stimulation of the lymph system to increase the body’s ability to fight toxic invaders.
  • Releases endorphins. 
  • Improved range of motion.
  • Relaxation of injured muscles.
  • Increased recovery time after exercise.
    • Massage has no effect on delayed onset muscle soreness
  • Increased joint flexibility.
  • Treats migraines.
    • Massage has only been proved effective in the treatment of tension headaches.
  • Reduces post-operative adhesions.
    • Only lasers and scalpels have an effect on adhesions.
  • Reduces scar tissue.
    • As per adhesions.
  • Helps eliminate lactic acid from muscles.
  • Removes toxins from the body.

An assortment of modalities claims a variety of benefits, here are some.

  • Whiplash. 
    • You should consult a Medical Doctor, Orthopedic doctor or physical therapist.
  • Chronic pain.
    • Massage has not been proven to be effective in the elimination of chronic pain.
  • Disc problems.
    • Consult your Primary Care physician for a referral.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Vulvodynia.
    • If you have this disease and need more information visit NVA’s website.
    • This video gives great detail into this disease and the treatments available.
  • Interstitial Cystitis.
  • Menstrual Problems.
  • Painful Intercourse.
  • Urinary Frequency.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Infertility Problems.
  • Urinary Incontinence.
  • Episiotomy Scars.

Research

Shawn White Blog