Massage flushes toxins out of the body
No. Stop saying this. Rarely has anyone proclaiming this benefit been able to actually name the ‘toxins’ gallivanting around in our systems.
A healthy body has a pretty efficient way of dealing with its metabolic wastes, they get reused and repurposed (so efficient!), stored away safely, or eliminated (sweating, peeing, pooping, etc). There are more technical situations involving environmental pollutants that may require medical intervention (think lead poisoning), to remove a harmful substance from a body. But massage isn’t such an intervention. Need more convincing? Paul Ingraham has a great article about just this topic. And if that’s not enough, check out Laura Allen’s little chat about toxins.
What about lactic acid? It turns out that lactic acid is a fuel, not a waste product, and we have no business trying to remove it from muscle tissue. Oh, and there’s no relationship between the amount of lactic acid present in tissue and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. (Mind blowing, huh?)
So what should we say when clients ask about toxins, muscles soreness and massage? It can be awkward to respond with, “I have no idea if this massage stuff actually works.”
I usually say, “New research is showing us that lactic acid doesn’t cause muscle soreness and that there really aren’t any ‘toxins’ rogue in our systems. I can tell you that the bulk of my clients move and feel better day to day when they get regular massage.”
Massage spreads cancer
It’s been said that if one was to massage over a tumor, cells could break off and be spread to other areas throughout the body via the bloodstream. Nope. Doesn’t happen that way.
According to my friend Lisa Santoro, a properly skilled therapist wouldn’t be massaging directly over a tumor site. Further, the type of pressure used in massage is akin to that of water pressure in a shower, and isn’t likely to be causing the dispersal of cells.
And yet, it’s such a pervasive myth that it’s a FAQ on Tracy Walton’s website. (Tracy is a massage therapist, researcher and an expert in oncology massage.)
“An old myth warned that massage could, by raising general circulation, promote metastasis since tumor cells travel through blood and lymph channels. We now recognize that movement and exercise raise circulation much more than a brief massage can, and that routine increases in circulation occur many times daily in response to metabolic demands of our tissues”. If you would like a more technical discussion on this topic, you can read this brilliant article by Debra Curties.
If you wish to provide massage to people with cancer, seek extensive advanced training. If you wish to be awesome, just stop spreading this myth.
Massage is not safe in the first trimester of pregnancy
Women have been massaging each other through pregnancies for thousands of years, so when did this rumor start? I could rant about the medicalization of maternity and the tendency to turn pregnancy into an illness and treat it as the least natural thing to happen to a body, but I won’t.
My best guess is that this myth came from fear and concerns about liability. If a pregnancy is going to spontaneously terminate, it is most likely to happen in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. This means there is an increased chance of a massage being administered and miscarriage occurring in the same small time frame, say a few days. But we’re smart massage therapists. We know that correlation does not imply causation. A miscarriage may be caused by any of several issues including chromosomal abnormalities, severe chronic illness or severe trauma. The application of skilled massage is not a cause of miscarriage.
When someone asks you about safety of massage at any point in pregnancy, refer them to a professional with advanced training in this area.