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

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.


Research

Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage

What is Rolfing?

Massage is Amazing!

Looyen Work

Looyen Work? That’s a strange name! What does it have to do with Adhesions?

What is Looyen Work?

This modality may be described as a combination of physical therapy and psychoanalysis.

Looyen Work practitioners claim to have the ability to penetrate deep into a muscle to reduce tension, remove adhesions and improve range of motion. This modality uses a variety of techniques and pressure levels, from mild traditional Swedish strokes to brutally painful Rolfing techniques.

Massage therapists who claim the ability to detect and break apart adhesions with their hands are woefully mistaken. Massage therapists do not have the ability to affect an adhesion in any meaningful way.

So then, what is an adhesion? Adhesions are fibrous bands of scar tissue that form between internal organs and tissues, joining them together abnormally. An example of an adhesion would be Endometriosis, which is a condition in which the endometrial tissue that lines the uterus begins to invade other parts of the body.

How is an adhesion actually removed? Adhesions are permanent without a surgical procedure called adhesion lysis or Laparoscopic Lysis, this procedure is used to disrupt or remove the tissue. Here is a great video that explains adhesions in greater detail and how to treat them.

Practitioners of this modality are also known for attempting to council their clients through any emotional release that may occur during a massage session. This is outside of a massage therapist’s scope of practice. As soft tissue manipulators we are not allowed to treat your mental health issues. Be wary of any massage therapist who attempts to diagnose or treat any mental health issues you may have.


Research

Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage

What is Rolfing?

Massage is Amazing!

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

 

Rolfing

What is Rolfing? Its Painful!

What is Rolfing? This modality uses unproven techniques that claim to restructure fascia, muscles and other soft tissue to make improvements to a client’s posture. The techniques used in this modality are often very painful. Massage therapists implementing this modality use a considerable amount of force, enlisting knuckles, fists and elbows to dig deep into ligaments and tendons. In some instances a practitioner will place a client into a number of uncomfortable poses similar to assisted yoga.

The practitioners of Rolfing claim this modality may be used to treat a number of health conditions, such as: loss of balance, back pain, stress, anxiety, respiratory issues, decreased mobility, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and limited range of motion.

Unfortunately structural integration is still practiced. The no pain, no gain philosophy is an ineffective treatment option. Your massage should feel good during and after the session. If your massage therapist or health care provider is leaving your with bruises, consider letting this sadist go to seek out someone who actually has the education to help you.


Research

Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage

Essential Oils

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Recently I was involved in a conversation with someone claiming essential oils could be used to help induce labor. I was interested in hearing more, because a scientific mind is creative and open. In my research I have never read any science-based evidence supporting this claim, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If someone has data supporting essential oils can help induce labor I want to read it. If they can’t provide science-based evidence, then my opinion will most likely remain the same. Those who don’t question the science or effectiveness of their ideas are pseudo-scientists and are a part of the problem in society. If we want to remain forward thinkers working hard to improve our lives we must engage in critical thought, debate and research.

Others participating in the conversation claimed there were no studies on aroma therapy and pregnancy. It was as if they were so locked in their beliefs they were unwilling to check PubMed to see if their claims had any weight. With a five second search I found an article on  labor pain management and aroma therapy. It wasn’t directly related to the labor inducing claim, but it did show research existed.

Essential oils are discussed a lot in my professional circles, that is because I am a massage therapist. Unfortunately, with essential oils we are visited by the local parasite, the MLM. Shawn White, why do you speak so negatively about this type of business? The answer is simple, if a company is an MLM it is operating with an inherently unethical and unsustainable business model. MLMs, like cancer are bad for society, they destroy hopes and dreams, empty savings accounts and push people to desperate lengths, often leading them to terminate longstanding and healthy relationships. If you find yourself invited to an MLM, take this fancy test to see what kind of pyramid presence they are presenting.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy proponents describe this modality as “the therapeutic use of the essential oils of plants.” The term was coined by Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist in the 1920’s. When the term essential is used it is not describing the nutritional value of these plants. Instead it is the volatile, aromatic components that are the “essence” of the plant. This essence is believed to embody the plant’s life force and contains hormones, vitamins, antibiotics, and antiseptics. These oils are supposed to be administered in small quantities via inhalation and massage, though occasionally they are taken internally. [1]

Aromatherapists claim essential oils have the benefits of [2]:

  • They are convenient, quick and easy to use. – You can wear them during the day, diffuse them in your home or work place, or simply keep them in your pocket.
  • Are organic substances from the volatile liquid of plants. – The essential oils support healthy body functions such as healthy immune system function.
  • They can penetrate the skin and affect the emotional center. – Oils cross the brain-blood barrier and reach the amygdala and other limbic parts of the brain that control our mood, emotions and beliefs. So they can help us with our ability to handle stress, anger or any other emotion.
  • Soothes muscle discomfort after exercise. 
  • Helps animals.
  • Support healthy digestion.

What are my thoughts on Aromatherapy and Essential Oils?

Convenience is great, Americans love getting stuff right now, we are obsessed with fast food and instant gratification. Its fair to want medicine we can easily take, fortunately most simply require a small cup of water and the ability to swallow. The more important subject to discuss is aromatherapy’s claims involving the immune system. What do they mean by “The essential oils support healthy body functions such as healthy immune system function. [2]

What part of the immune system are they supporting and in what way? What research has been done and where can I find evidence supporting these claims? Are these studies only in vitro or have they been performed on animals and humans? Are these results meaningful, have the researchers proven the outcome was statistically significant? This article presented by Mark Crislip at Science Based Medicine, is an in depth critical analysis of products and procedures claiming to support the immune system.

I read and hear a lot about the benefits essential oils have on mood, but where is the science-based evidence? If you have access to a double-blind study observing the effects essential oils have on mental illness I would love to read it. As of yet I have not found any evidence except anecdotal testimonies.

When someone says their product soothes muscle discomfort after exercise they referring to a condition called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, aka DOMS.  People have tried many methods to eliminate DOMS. Massage, ultrasound, light exercise, glutamine, stretching, icing, electrical nerve stimulation, Epsom salts, drinking water, cherry juice, compression garments and vitamin D have been used to combat DOMS. Unfortunately, these methods just like Aromatherapy are ineffective [4]. “To date, a sound and consistent treatment for DOMS has not been established. Although multiple practices exist for the treatment of DOMS, few have scientific support. [5]” 


Research

Shawn White Blog

Clinical Massage


 

[1] <https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/aroma.html>

[2] <http://www.experience-essential-oils.com/essential-oil-benefits.html>

[3] <https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/boost-your-immune-system/>

[4] <https://www.painscience.com/articles/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness.php>

[5] <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12580677>

 

Sick – A New Universe of Cancer

Sick

Sick

Today I intended to have my scan but last night I felt terribly sick.  I hadn’t thrown up that much since chemo days.  I was up all night, so once the hour was close to my appointment I attempted to get a ride to the scan.  It would have been irresponsible to drive in my fatigued state.

Luckily the mixture hadn’t been created and I was able to reschedule.  I don’t know what had me so sick, I am not nauseated now, not since this morning. Maybe it was food poisoning?  The flu? Perhaps it was stress?  It could have been any number of things I suppose.

I’ve been focusing on stressful things as of late.  Maybe this is a sign that I need to change gears and add more levity to my routine.

Projects

I’ve been researching oncology massage, I am still very early in this process. By profession I’m a massage therapist, I love helping people.  Massage therapy when performed by a trained therapist can have instant and positive rewards.  It is one of the few things in life that has this ability.  So many other things in life that provide instant gratification isn’t healthy.

I mentioned this before, currently I am developing a booklet focused on self advocacy for patients.  Right now I am searching for others who’d like to be a part of this project, my goal is to create material for people who’ve been recently diagnosed.  I want it to be something a patient could refer to at any phase of their journey.

If you are reading my blog and have any questions about it feel free to post a comment and we can discuss further.

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to read more about my journey through cancer feel free to click on this link.