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.


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Bowen Technique 

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Shawn White Blog

bowen technique

Bowen Technique? What the heck is that?

What is the Bowen Technique?

The Bowen technique also called the Neurostructural Integration Technique uses a combination of soft tissue manipulation and energy work. Supposedly through a series of gentle movements at precise points the therapist promotes the flow of energy and creates vibrations throughout the body. This modality utilizes a variety of gentle strokes that may be applied through clothing. Within a typical session there will be many breaks, practitioners claim this is because the body needs to assimilate the new energy and vibrations.

The practitioners claim this modality will help treat the symptoms of asthma, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, infertility and other reproductive problems.

With bold claims like these there is no wonder the scientific medical community looks down on massage. How in the world would a massage have any effect on asthma, IBS and infertility? This pseudoscience is equally ineffective as its snake oil cousins of acupuncture meridians and the Inate vitalism of chiropractics. This modality just like all pseudomedicines are placebos wrapped in a complex web of ritualism.

If you are suffering with infertility, asthma or migraines I strongly suggest you save your money, time and health by seeing a medical doctor specialized in these kinds of issues. A massage therapist rubbing on your body zones may feel great but it will do very little to treat serious health conditions.


Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage

What is Rolfing?

Massage is Amazing!


Massage is amazing, but what are its benefits?

Would you like to improve circulation? Maybe you are interested in stimulating your lymph system to increase your body’s ability to fight toxic invaders? Perhaps you want to increase the number of endorphins released? These are common claims made by massage therapists, but are they true? Is there any science-based evidence supporting these supposed benefits? The answer is simple, most massage modalities have no proven benefit.

Life is already challenging, lets avoid increasing that difficulty. We achieve this by advocating for ourselves, one great way to start is by being critical about the advice we are given. We should be exceptionally critical of any treatment option we use, especially when it comes to our health. In this article we are specifically discussing the benefits of massage. In my research I have discovered two proven benefits:

  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 always reach for the stars. The best way to understand our world and the stars 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 have never been taught how to research or critically think, this paves the way for pseudo-medicine to continually nest within the massage industry. By and large massage therapists are undereducated, and they tend to cling to pre-science modalities or unproven ideas. This causes massage therapists to perpetuate myths and falsehoods. I want to help you protect yourself from this inaccurate information. The best way I know how is by showing you how to become your own advocate.

So how do I protect myself from low quality massage therapists? Finding the right massage therapist is like finding the right doctor. Now, by no means am I saying a massage therapist is equal to a doctor in education or scope of practice, but the way we approach our health should be universal.

Before using any massage therapist, we should review their website, or the company’s website they are employed by. This is done to see what modalities they use, and to determine if they provide evidence supporting the efficacy of these modalities. Contact the massage therapist and discuss their theory of massage, do their ideas match yours? If they don’t understand your needs, your needs will not be met. Not all massage therapists research and write articles, but if they do, this is a great way to see what their approach to massage is. If you can access a few, take some time to read them to determine if they are worth your hard-earned money.

Massage therapy makes all sorts of claims, here are some of the most common:

  • 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.
  • Increased joint flexibility.
  • Treats migraines.
  • Reduces post-operative adhesions.
  • Reduces edema.
  • Reduces scar tissue.
  • Helps eliminate lactic acid from muscles.
  • Removes toxins from the body.

It is easy to claim massage has a benefit, it is much more difficult to provide science-based evidence it plays a significant role in treating a disease or condition.  Some of the claims above might be possible,  but others are simply ludicrous.

Here are some more claims, take a look and ask yourself if you believe massage therapy could be an effective treatment option for the following conditions:

  • Whiplash.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Disc problems.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Neurological dysfunction.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Painful scars.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Vulvodynia.
  • Interstitial Cystitis.
  • Mastectomy Pain.
  • Menstrual Problems.
  • Painful Intercourse.
  • Urinary Frequency.
  • Problematic Breast Implant.
  • Coccydynia.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Infertility Problems.
  • Urinary Incontinence.
  • Lymphedema.
  • Urinary Urgency.
  • Episiotomy Scars.
  • Pelvic Floor Pain.
  • Pudendal Nerve Entrapment.


Massage therapy is great, it feels good and as a result it relaxes us. In a world of hardship, challenge and infinite obstacles, massage has a great slice of the wellness pie. We provide a healthy, ethical and effective form of instant gratification. A client doesn’t have to worry about adverse effects or addiction when receiving one. When we have such a wonderful niche, why are we so concerned with the release of toxins, improvement of circulation and the numerous other unproven claims? Embrace massage for what it is, an experience that feels amazing!


Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage