water

Water and the Myths of Massage, can we massage out toxins?

I hope you brought your water pills cause its time to take your medicine!  Oh you’re out? Well you can find more at your local grocery store in the Snake Oil isle. You know the one? The place where everyone can pretend they are treating their illnesses with placebo! Speaking of myths lets jump into one of my industry’s most absurd: drinking water after a massage to flush out toxins.  Massage does not remove toxins from your body and the water you drink after a massage doesn’t help flush out anything that was worked out of your muscles. The water is a courtesy, its welcoming and it quenches your thirst. It feels good to take a delicious, cool drink of water after a magnificent massage. The water has no effect on DOMS, which is that achy, uncomfortable quasi painful sensation after a session or when we exercise.

If you are feeling pain after a massage there are two better remedies than drinking a bottle of water. The first is to communicate more effectively with your massage therapist. If something hurts, tell them. If they are hurting you, tell them. A massage should never hurt. This experience should feel wonderful! If you are twitching or recoiling from their touch this is a bad thing. Your muscles should be inviting them in, not fending them off!

The second way to avoid this pain is by getting a different massage therapist.  A quality massage is one that is safe, ethical and feels wonderful. If your therapist is hurting you they are achieving none of these requirements. Stand up for yourself and demand the quality of service you are paying for. Become your own advocate and create the world you want to live in! Make the most of your moments and find a magnificent massage therapist who actually knows how to give a marvelous massage.

Massage doesn’t flush out toxins

Massage doesn’t flush out toxins, but did you know trying to sweat them out is equally ineffective? Sitting in a sauna, sweating and melting away may create a puddle of skin coolant under you, but it will do nothing to eradicate the supposed “toxins” in your body. We sweat to cool ourselves, not to excrete waste products or clear toxic substances. When we need to clean our inside zones we turn to the real filtration centers: our kidneys and liver. They a do a great job on their own, they don’t need massage, saunas or wraps to get in their way.

These kinds of practices, the methods of removing toxins can be incredibly dangerous especially when taken to the extreme. We have seen this time and again when alternative medicine attacks the vulnerable. Alternative medicine is alternative because it isn’t real medicine. When you don’t give proper care to the  seriously ill, they typically die. We saw this in 2012 when Naima Houder-Mohammed paid Robert O Young, the father of the alkaline diet, $77,000 for treatment, where he infused sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into her blood stream. She was treated by him for three months, during which her health worsened until she died.

A more relevant experience to massage was when a Quebec woman went to her local spa expecting to sweat her toxins out in a hot wrap, but was instead cooked alive for nine hours until she died of heat exhaustion. [1] Dr. Joe Schwarcz, a professor of chemistry at McGill University in Montreal compared sweating out toxins with someone sitting in a bathtub worrying about drowning. “Removing a dropper-full of water from the tub will theoretically reduce the risk — because the chance of drowning is lower in less water — but getting rid of so little water will be effectively meaningless.” [2]  The same is true for the toxins we sweat from our pores.

 


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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.


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What are the Benefits of Massage

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