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!

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