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💩 Massage Therapists Say

A compilation of more than 50 examples of the bizarre nonsense spoken by massage therapists with delusions of medical knowledge

updated
by Alice Sanvito, LMT

I’ve long threatened to make a list of some of the wild claims, word salads, and inane statements made by massage therapists and related professions so I could have it all in one place. You can laugh or you can cry.

In most cases, the names have been concealed to protect the guilty. I have also kept the abundant spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors intact.

People have accused me of being “negative” or criticized me for poking fun at some of the bizarre things that some massage therapists say. I ask, which is worse? That I poke fun at these statements or that they are made and accepted in the first place?

I love massage therapy and want to see the field grow and progress. The only way we can do that is to own up to and clean up the misinformation, irrational thinking, and unfounded claims that hold us back from gaining the respect of other health care professionals and clients who know better. So, I present you with some of the crazy shit massage therapists say.

~ Alice Sanvito, Licensed Massage Therapist

When Alice Sanvito first produced this compilation of inanities and posted it on Facebook, I knew I’d been scooped: she got to this fun idea before I did!

Alice is an indefatigable defender of science and reason on Facebook, where massage therapists congregate in the tens of thousands to discuss and debate issues in their profession on several large forums. Despite her humour and civility, “that Sanvito woman” has earned many enemies and nicknames, and she is constantly exposed to some of the greatest hits of bad thinking in her profession. And they are very bad indeed.

My own inbox has always been a Pandora’s box of the absurdities that massage therapists try to tell me with a straight face, and I have always meant to publish the daffiest — for the laughs, and for the consumer education. Massage can be marvellous, and everyone loves to love their massage therapist — and I do love mine, because she never says shit like this. But the profession is also rotten with quackery and vitalistic garbage, and that needs a light shone on it. The “professionals” guilty of this stuff need to be publicly shamed and prodded to grow up and learn some real biology.

~ Paul Ingraham, former Massage Therapist

Photo of a classy statue doing a “facepalm” of disbelief.

This is not a statue of a “facepalm”: it’s a depiction of “Cain After Killing His Brother Abel,” by Henri Vidal, found in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. In this framing, however, it is perfectly suited to the more modern intepretation! Photo by Alex E. Proimos.

I think this one should stay at the top of the list. It is, indeed, one of the best. Or worst. It’s a description of what is surely the most bizarre (National Certification Board approved!) continuing education class for massage therapists, “Molecular Terminal Valence Sloughing System with Liquefaction”:

MTVSS with Liquefaction is the best over all Body Process for releasing stuck energy, boosting the immune system, healing joints, healing bone cancer and much more.. MTVSS with Liquefaction can be used in conjunction with other body processes to increase effectiveness and body saturation of other body processes. When you ask MTVSS and all the rest to run you turn on 25 different energies. Just one of these energies clears and activates all 67 Metabolisms that have been interfered with to diminish proper functioning. Imagine getting your hands buzzing with MTVSS and see how much more amazing a massage can be as knots and tension melt away with ease with this added energy. Imagine how much more deeply you could saturate a client with Reiki energy when you add MTVSS with Liquefaction to your Reiki sessions. Imagine how you can help keep you and your loved ones healthy with this Body Process. The combinations of running MTVSS numbers to over one thousand and the possibilities for this Body Process are endless. How cool is that?

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Someone asked for professional opinions about a medical device and this was one of the responses. None of it makes any sense:

My opinion and fact about the [device].....I wouldn't waste my time with it. It's not a strong enough stimulater. It's more of a positive and a negative function and that's just not as strong. Magnetic is the way to go because it's natural. We live around it, it's what allows us to heal as fast as we do but earth is loosing it more and more. This is very brief, hope it's enough. If it's something your interested you can message me. I know all about numerous machines and I know the difference of what's good and what's a waste of time. If you simply don't have this machine or a form of one, don't judge it either, it is a natural therapy that does actually help so of you don't know what your talking about just keep it to yourself or go out and learn it. It's a lifesaver for my stroke clients.

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Toxins are a favorite subject of many massage therapists, of course.

Febreze . . . is one of the worst neurotoxins out there.

Wow, worse than botulism or rattlesnake venom? I don’t usually mix politics and massage therapy, but maybe the military should know about this. Then again, it might violate international agreements about chemical weapons.

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Many clients suffering from a disc bulge don't know where it is or haven't been officially diagnosed, so I prefer to find the disc through palpation.

That’s some amazing palpation skills.

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Many massage therapists have a fuzzy idea about “grounding” and “shielding.” They do not use the term in a psychological, metaphorical sense, as in maintaining a calm sense of self, unaffected by a client’s emotional state… they mean it literally. As a former construction electrician, I can say that their ideas about grounding and shielding do not correspond to conventional electrical theory.

Question: “Any insight into why I sometimes get hiccups during sessions? Just one or two and it's over but it happens quite often.”

Answer: “Your not grounded or shielded. Your picking up clients energy.”

Clients’ energy causes hiccups. That’s one for the medical texts!

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Anatomical note: the scalenes are a group of muscles in the neck. The psoas is a hip flexor that passes through the pelvis. Keep that in mind when reading the answer to this question posed in a massage therapists’ forum:

Have you considered releasing the scalenes through the psoas before you work them?

Oh my. I can’t even begin…

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Regarding a client who had heart surgery and post-operatively has had vertigo. The MT has concluded:

Kidney yin deficiency keeps coming up, and I'm not a acupuncturist, however, we modify the diet, press the points, send energy, etc. Any advice?

Yes. Go back to school and study anatomy, physiology, and pathology . . . or get into another profession, preferably one where you can’t hurt or mislead people.

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You folks can't think in a straight line. No wonder you're so entranced with this neuro nonsense.

“This neuro nonsense” is a reference to a neurological perspective on treating pain, AKA pain science. This commenter thinks neurology is nonsense.

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If you want to affect the neurological system you are much better off going deeper to the periosteum, joint capsules, ligaments and tendons as it is well known that these areas contain interstitial mechanism receptors. Interstitial mechanoreceptors are more abundant than the mechanoreceptors of the skin, eyes, ears and nose combined.

Anatomical note: the periosteum is the surface of the bones, a kind of “skin” on the bones. It does have sensory nerve endings. The term “interstitial” means between cells; however, as far as I know, “interstitial mechanism receptors” is a term totally dreamed up by this particular massage therapist and I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean. “Mechanoreceptors” are sensory nerve endings that respond to mechanical stimulation i.e. pressure, vibration, skin stretching, light touch. The skin is richly innervated with sensory nerve endings and massage probably achieves much of its effect by stimulating them. However, some massage therapists are attached to the idea that they are somehow affecting “deeper” tissues and often use fuzzy anatomical and physiological reasoning to support their ideas.

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This was said in all sincerity and not ironically in response to a comment that a lot of massage therapists’ ideas are not based in reality but are mostly wishful thinking. I like how “feel” was put in scare quotes.

Please understand that my wishful thinking actually makes people ‘feel’ better.

Still not a good reason to bullshit clients.

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A response to a question on how to treat a particular client:

the muscles may be out of place [name removed] try to move them upwards with your fingers...esp the obturator internus

Anatomical note: the obturator internus is deep in the hip. Muscles are firmly attached to bones and cannot get “out of place.” The idea that one could move them with the fingers by pushing through skin is bizarre.

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These points were from a presentation by a massage therapist who had been invited to give a presentation on massage to a group of office workers. The person who invited him really regretted it afterwards.

  1. Each hour of sleep prior to midnight is twice as refreshing as an hour of sleep after midnight.
  2. The body knows the days of the week and sleep patterns change on Fridays and Saturday.
  3. There were two sisters who had MS symptoms from drinking diet soda. Their symptoms went away after cutting out diet soda. They self experimented by re-introducing diet soda, and their MS symptoms came roaring back.
  4. 96 different illnesses are caused by Aspartame.
  5. Belief in a higher being is essential to good health.

For the record: the body does not know what day of the week it is and I’m not aware of any evidence that diet soda causes MS symptoms. I doubt any of these statements are grounded in any facts. “96” is amusingly specific bullshit!

This not only qualifies as #shitmassagetherapistssay but is a shining example of how we alienate people by saying stupid stuff and wandering outside of our area of expertise and scope of practice. This MT passed up a golden opportunity to promote both himself and his profession. Instead, he made himself and our profession look like idiots. Thanks, dude. Folks like us now have to work twice as hard to re-establish massage therapy's good name.

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Massage actually releases issues that have been stored in your tissues there even more toxic than toxins.

Whoa! That’s toxic! And no, massage does not release “toxins.” This belief has actually led some massage therapists to advise nursing mothers to avoid massage for fear of poisoning their baby. Some massage therapists have actually suggested that if nursing mothers get massage, they should pump their breast milk and dump it so as not to expose their baby to “toxins.” I am not making this up.

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If your hands are educated enough, you can reach each layer; with intention, you can alter the structure of bone. Hope that's not too much for your mind.

Okaaay. We change the structure of bone with our hands. Scary thought.

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The next several quotes are examples of Pushback against evidence-based/science-based practice and critical thinking.

Much of the evidence for evidenced based research is inadequate or skewed, making it a pseudoscience in itself.

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Alice Sanvito keep your energy to help others! Instead of looking for facts all the time.

Those pesky facts, always getting in the way of fantasy physiology.

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This particular therapist object to the idea of evidence-based practice, but he’s got a seriously distorted idea of exactly what that means.

Their are many massage therapist who want massage therapy to only include evidenced based research backed massage theory and technique. They love the word pseudo science and woo. Well I am seeing a new evidenced based woo. Here are some of the evidenced based woo that I keep reading. Pain is a product of the brain and they discount the nociceptors as a very real part of pain science. You should not apply ice to acute injuries because it interferes with the inflammation process so don't ice. Stretching does not prevent injuries or enhance performance. Athletes should not stretch. Adhesions don't exist. Adhesions don't cause pain and restrict range of motion in the body. I want to start a new group called the woo of evidenced based massage therapist because they are actually more dangerous than the pseudoscience and energetic therapist anyway. The " woo" of evidenced based massage therapist is related to poor evaluation of current research and making ridiculous claims based on limited understanding of what the research really indicates !!!!"

For the record, evidence-based practice does not mean that the therapist cannot do anything that is not supported by random control trials. No one thinks that. What it does mean is that the therapist should be well-informed, should be aware of what evidence exists and take that into consideration in how they practice. They should avoid making claims that contradict what we know about how the body works and adapt their thinking when new evidence suggests it.

The concept of “evidence based woo” is a bit of an oxymoron. Practice based on evidence is the opposite of practice based on magical thinking a.k.a. “woo.” Most of the ideas put forth in this comment are either completely erroneous or a gross distortion of a partial truth. I will agree with one thing, though: practice based on a misunderstanding of science and evidence is not evidence-based practice.

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What this seems to end up with, is the belief that nothing is proven, therefore nothing works. So what should our therapy be? Nothing????

This is a fairly common frustration expressed among massage therapists who misunderstand what it means to be evidence-based. I know, I was once one of them. Fortunately, people like Paul Ingraham helped me to understand that one can continue to practice as an ethical, reality-based massage therapist and that giving up dubious claims does not have to hurt your practice. Most clients appreciate truth in advertising.

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Or as I like to refer to them as the un educated due to too much information group

Referring to science literate massage therapists who take a stand for evidence.

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Science is also additionally based on the idea that this is the best hypothesis of the time. Now that Western science has been able to measure energy fields around humans, they suddenly say it is real because it is measurable and quantifiable via their instruments, and given some "woo" name like "biochemical field". For centuries the idea of auras or energies was scoffed at, until, of course, Western science was able to measure it. Have never seen a scientific press release saying "our bad", "you were right all these centuries". Nope. It's a "discovery" by science."

They haven’t seen such a press release because, in fact, science has not verified the existence of auras or human energy fields. As for science announcing new evidence that overturns previous ideas, this happens all the time. This is perhaps one of the greatest differences between science and magical thinking: science adapts to new evidence where magical thinking continues believing the same unsupported ideas in spite of evidence to the contrary.

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I couldn't believe he was asking for evidence

The nerve! Yes, a lot of massage therapists are completely baffled by the idea of asking for evidence and take it as a personal affront.

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I hear people say all the time their is no valid research that supports energy. I think that is not true because the people who don't like energy don't due valid searches for research that proves that it exists !!!"

Bad science fails to verify the existence of human energy fields! The “energy” in question is not referring to observable, measurable forms of energy such as mechanical energy, electromagnetic energy, or kinetic energy. They are referring to a belief in a vague human energy field that is not measurable and violates the laws of physics.

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The point is every time you hear an evidenced based massage therapist say their is no evidence of energy and you send them to places to look at they either cut down the person or they cut down the equipment or they say nothing exists !!! . Same old stuff. Just a matter of whose Ph.d you want to recognize as having any value. What years of experience have any value. . . everybody is entitled to their opinion. I repeat every time I see an evidenced base massage therapist claim their is no science that shows energy exists and you send them to places and people their first reaction is to either cut the person down or cut the device down as having no scientific basis. Yet they are willing to site their own research and make outlandish claims themselves !!!!

This is a common complaint among massage therapists. Because most of them are not particularly science literate or research literate, they often do not know how to evaluate evidence or research as to quality and validity. It’s often difficult to explain why a study is not high quality or does not support a claim that a therapist thinks it support. Even when it can be explained fairly easily, massage therapists often don’t have sufficient knowledge of basic science to understand the explanation. We need to promote science literacy and research literacy.

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I haven't read research YET, but any one who experiences manual therapy would be crazy to take the study to heart."

This comment was regarding a piece of research the person had not read but rejected anyway because it contradicted their beliefs.

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Lol [name removed] omg are they really saying these things for real?? Are they therapists? I don't understand?

Comment made by someone dismissing science-based concepts with which they were completely unfamiliar — forming an opinion on something they admitted they knew nothing about.

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Collagen when agitated can go from gel to sol.

Next time you ride in a bumpy car, don't be surprised if your body completely falls apart when you get out. For the record: collagen fibers are the primary component of connective tissue. It’s there to hold us together. It does not become more liquid if agitated. If it did, vibration would cause us to melt into a puddle! The commenter here is botching an explanation of a real phenomenon, but thixotropy has no clinical relevance.

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If what some people said of fascia were true, humans would not be able to move by the force generated from their own muscles. They would also have shells, like lobster, as strong as steel. Humans would be immovable bullet proof objects.

I'm totally baffled by this claim. Asked for explanation, didn't get any. They are probably responding to the fact that collagen fibers, the primary component of connective tissue, are very strong and tough and cannot be stretched, as many massage therapists believe. It’s been said that collagen fibers are “as tough as Kevlar.” This may be true. However, they are also very fine fibers, microscopic in size. If they were layered as thickly and densely as the Kevlar fibers of a bulletproof vest, they are right — we probably couldn’t move. Fortunately for us, this is not the case.

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I have provided years of sports massage without ever touching the skin. Does that mean it had no effect on the person? Nerve sensory receptors are in the skin and in great number but they are also in muscle, joints, organs, fascia and bone. Do these sensory receptors not count ???? Only skin receptors go to the brain? this is the rediculus srgument !!!!

Apparently when it is pointed out that one can only touch skin, the concept is impossible for some MTs to grasp. Massage therapy education tends to focus on muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia, etc. — all tissues below the skin — and tends to ignore the fact that massage therapists can only directly touch the skin, that the skin is full of sensory nerves, and most of the effects of massage probably come about by affecting the nervous system via contact with sensory nerves in the skin. This massage therapist had a hard time grasping this, to the point of ridiculousness.

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Oh yes. We only touch the skin. Actually I do quite a bit of massage through the clothing, so I guess I only affect the clothes, not the person at all!

Still not getting it! Apparently the concept that when we touch people through clothing we’re still stimulating sensory nerves in the skin continues to elude this therapist. This doesn’t seem like such a difficult concept to grasp.

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I hope you are not working through a fiber like cotton. Have you ever tried to stretch a cotton fiber? The tensile strength of Cotton is quite high, Much higher than you can stretch with manually applied forces. Therefore, if you are working through cotton clothing you are not affecting the persons skin.

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I have provided sports massage at events for years and have never asked an athlete to completely undress in public. So I guess massage through sports bras and running shorts has no effect what so ever ????

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WHAT the WOO. LOL keep this science coming I need the laugh. Oh and I recently took a class where I was the only manual therapist and I was informed that there is" NO SUCH THING AS ENERGY" Hmmm Ok that "energy is hoodoo and the body isn't energy? SMH"

Back to the “energy” thing. A class in basic physics would be useful, preferably one that covered the difference between mass and energy.

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Woo... using critical thinking as an excuse. If you read most of these so-called "critical thinking" it is mostly author's own rhetorical argument, selectively picking evidence to suit their needs.

That, by definition, would be the opposite of critical thinking.

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By now you should realize we have been practicing to condition the myofascia in our bodies so we can use it to create more mass in our limbs for massage work. This expands and increases the fascia along with our internal energy which is much better for our health and that of our clients, but we need to practice regularly.

This may qualify for Wolfgang Pauli’s concept of an assertion being so muddled that it’s “not even wrong.” (Actually, come to think of it, most of the quotes on this page probably qualify for that.)

For the record: “myofascia” is the term for muscle fibers and their surrounding fascial sheaths. The author had some confused notion about making the myofascia “thicker” and was not referring to weight training to increase muscle mass. Attempts at trying to get a rational explanation only led to more confused word salads.

This same therapist also commented to one questioner that he was older and taller than the questioner, implying that this gave him more authority. That’s a new concept: height makes right!

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There is no science or true research in that article to back up its claims of not enough research.

Okaaay…

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This one comes from a discussion on “grounding mats.” Some massage therapists believe there is some benefit to standing on a mat that is connected to an electrical ground. As a former construction electrician, let me warn you that if you are working on electrical wiring, you do not want to stand on a grounding mat. If you are not working on electrical wiring, grounding mats will not do you any harm but they do not provide any benefit, either. It’s one of many hokey ideas that are alive and well among massage therapists and is akin to believing in dousing.

This therapist had recently bought a mat. Apparently the literature that came with it claimed that working without one could cause your blood to thicken and cause all sorts of ailments. One has to wonder how the human race survives if we’re all suffering from thickened blood.

It just says that when you work on a client that isn't grounded, it drains the therapist's energy, causing their own blood to become thick , which creates poor circulation, inflammation, chronic fatigue, pain and eventually total burnout. It comes with a cd that I haven't watched yet.

I especially liked that last sentence about not having watched the “CD.” It’s a nice touch. Someone offers an “explanation”:

I recently have noticed a trend in certain clients where negative energy has been transferred but my client loves my massage and wants to get regular treatment. I love all my clients and there isn't one I would complain about if it weren't for the negative feelings I get after working with them. For those wondering how it works I believe it uses a subtle vibration to calm energies in the clients. The vibration mimics the vibration of the earth itself and the client doesn't really feel it physically but clients can feel a sense of peace and calm emotionally and mentally. Now the whole thickening blood thing, I'm not truely sold on but when I'm working on someone who drains me or I feel like I'm working much harder to do the massage my veins expand and pop out on my hands and forearms. This could be the thickening of blood expanding the veins? the vibration frequency may help the blood flow easier and prevent it from getting very thick. Not sure. If anyone has more information on it please correct me. I haven't had the chance to try it out yet as I've only gotten it yesterday or the day before and I've been studying it and have time off from massage but I have fair hope for it. Will report on any findings next week.

I like that they are questioning the blood thickening, sort of maybe. It almost hints at critical thinking but then it gets buried under vibrations and negative energy and whatnot. With so much confused thinking it’s hard to know where to begin.

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Being ticklish is a sign of muscle tension, so you can tone down the ticklishness by reducing the tension and a trick I like to use is whack the bottom of the feet. . . Basically you are over whelming the nervous system allowing the muscle fibers to relax.

Whacking clients? Oh my. I’ll bet their clients love that. So much for reducing threat levels.

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I have a device that polarizes scar tissue

Nice. I hate depolarized scar tissue.

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The [product removed] also protects the therapists' energy shield from absorbing too much essential oils in order to stay fresh and energized throughout the day. Our 4 formulations which contain topical Homeopathic and Aromatherapeutic ingredients treat many different ailments . . .

Posted by an MT who sells some product to protect your energy fields.

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I've come to realize my mission is not to work on the body but to work on the astral and etheric levels and will be focusing my practice on this.

Is working on the astral body covered under our state licensing laws? If you’re working on an imaginary body, do you need to have an imaginary license?

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This was suggested by a therapist in response to working with a client who had had a concussion. It sounds like a surgical procedure, but this is about using hands, not scalpels:

Cranial frontal occipital decompression, which removes scar tissue from the brain and reliefs effects of PCS [post-concussion syndrome].

Does the brain get scar tissue? I have no idea but if it did, I’m pretty sure we could not remove it by applying pressure to the head with our hands.

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An anecdote rather than a quote:

A massage therapist blew her opportunity to work in a hospital when, in an interview, she said that she couldn’t wait to get into patients’ rooms to tell them about all the poisons the doctors are putting into their bodies.

An MT actually admitted this is an interview for a job in a hospital? If there were Darwin Awards for job seekers, this would be a winner!

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During a discussion on fibromyalgia…

I have success when the client is in remission.

Uh, don’t we all have success when our clients are in remission? Another talks about “jumpstarting [her] immune system by swimming in cold water.” Maybe battery cables would work?

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In answer to the question, can massage “battle” cancer:

Massage calms the mind and body so therefore it will reactivate the healing response. If you believe you can heal yourself then the answer is yes. The power of the mind has play a big part of it. Your determination will get you to your goals. But takes a lot of efforts & time to do self heal. It involves watching your diet, meditation, some exercises & must avoid any stress. Massage can help release the stress that produce toxins.

More toxin talk. It’s one of the most popular themes. Massage may provide comfort to those who have cancer but in and of itself there’s no reason to believe it's going to do anything for cancer.

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Today I learned there are “glutamate cells.” And we want our cells functioning at about 50% because more than that will make us dizzy. And … well, this little neuroanatomy lesson is so confused it is, as Wolfgang Pauli would say, not even wrong.

Note: glutamate is neurotransmitter, not a cell. As for “neuro cells” operating at varying percentages, I’d like to see the neurology text this came from. The whole paragraph is pretty confused.

While I was studying under my chiropractor. I learned little bit about neuromuscular function. It explains that the neuro cells become more active after an adjustment. Then it goes along and explains what a basic glutamate cell and nerve impulse looks like and how fast each type of neuro cell is. When a chiropractor adjusts they don’t want to overstimulate the neuro cell because it can lead to symptoms like dizziness. Let’s say the cell was only activity at about 20% The practitioner wants to aim for about 50-55% without going over that threshold. How to increase neuro cell activity is by an input into the CNS. One of the benefits of input is that it keeps the neuro cells nourished and also helps develop the CNS. In other words, if we didn’t have input (into the CNS) those nerve cells would eventually die off or be underdeveloped because of the lack of activity. After that cellular activity is increased the client can get a huge relief in perception/feeling of pain. Did you know that a chiropractor can de-stimulate the CNS like an antidepressant can? It was pretty neat listening on it. Both massage and acupuncture provide input and can stimulate the CNS. Still working on learning a bit more.

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A massage therapist said she felt ill after working with a client who was undergoing chemotherapy and asked in a forum whether she could be absorbing their chemotherapy or “negative energy." There are some types of radiation that require the patient to temporarily avoid direct contact with others. However, these patients are carefully advised of the precautions they need to take. Under normal circumstances, massage therapists are not going to absorb chemotherapy from their clients. This therapist’s recommendation to immediately wash their hands and urinate made me laugh so hard I almost peed in my pants.

Wash your hands and pee immediately after and envision his energy washing off with the water. This technique helped me when I was working with an alcoholic and seemed to be absorbing something from him. (My left armpit would smell like booze afterward, it was the strangest thing😳) Also consider envisioning a membrane that allows your energy out but does not let his in.

Just the left armpit, mind. Yes, that is pretty strange.

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I have travelled the world and have taken many very intense courses and what we do is incorporate the best of the best into the treatment. The Majority of Patients I will use a second Therapist as well. It's less work for me, less wear and tear and the Patients absolutely love it. First thing tomorrow we start with an emotional unwinding release. I book 4 hours for these regardless. A minimum of 2 hours of screaming!

Just thinking of that makes my throat sore.

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There are a lot of myths and misconceptions among massage therapists about massage and pregnancy including the erroneous idea that massage during the first trimester can cause miscarriage. This one combines that with the old toxin myth and some peculiar ideas about how the immune system works.

Providing massage in 1st trimester is not recommended. Toxins can be introduced into uterus & as a consequence the immune system will react naturally flushing all of what it determines to be toxic. Unfortunately immune system is not discriminating and will remove all material including fetus. It can and has happened.

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In answer to a question about whether bruising is a sign that the tissues are unhealthy:

people with weaker immune systems or poor physical health may bruise more easily and take a longer time to heal... Lactic acid and cellular waists wring from the muscles and become accessible to the lymphatic system for easy detoxing after a massage with proper hydration. Without hydration after deep tissue massage results in toxins and acids staying in the muscles resulting it soreness and even headaches. If someone is showing visible bruising after massage ask if they are on blood thinners and adjust your pressure in either case. . .

I have taken college level A&P. I have a degree in technical professional studies of alternative medicine…

If I used the term cellular waist rather than toxins I think it clears things up a little.

No, I think that using the term “cellular waist” still leaves this pretty muddled.

Not sure what “technical professional studies of alternative medicine” means, but whatever it is they still have some peculiar ideas about lactic acid, the lymphatic system, and toxins. It also repeats another favorite theme in massage therapy, that we’re all dehydrated and need to drink lots of water to flush out the toxins or else you’ll feel really bad after massage. See Why Drink Water After Massage?.

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Here’s one from someone who teaches “RAPID adhesion release.” She can’t seem to make up her mind whether they are actually releasing adhesions or not and has her own private definition of what adhesion means.

We use the "adhesion" as the locus of the most dysfunctional tissue which allows us to access the neurological system. The adhesion is used to get the nervous system to reduce the tissue tone, reduce the sympathetic activity, encourage a neuropeptide release, and increase the interstitial fluid. The "release" is the neurological by-product of our stimulation, not a physical break down. The term "adhesion release" is very telling to what we are actually doing but not in the sense that most would assume. We use adhesion to affect the nervous system to "release"/reduce the tone of the tissue. The therapists who take our course fully understand what we do which is presented in our lecture.

The term “adhesion” as used by medical professionals has a specific meaning. It is scar tissue that has glommed onto neighboring tissues and can, in fact, cause problems. It most often occurs in the abdominal cavity as a result of overzealous scar tissue following surgery. Scar tissue is tough (remember those tough collagen fibers?) and the only reliable way to “release” it is with a scalpel. The term “adhesion” is misused by massage therapists to mean whatever they want. They imagine the body is full of adhesions and that they can release them by pushing on skin with their hands. This therapist has picked up on some current thinking about pain and the nervous system but wants to arbitrarily mix it with outdated thinking about adhesions, creating a bit of a word salad. Pass the vinegar and oil, please.

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Fascia is like Saran Wrap. If you wad Saran Wrap up, it sticks to itself. Through injury and overuse, we develop adhesions in the fascia where it sticks to the skin above an the muscle below. (They will be able to feel the adhesions or "bumps" as you rub the tool over an effected area) These techniques are designed to separate the tissues from one another to allow for better mover while decreasing pain.

Where do people get this idea that the body spontaneously glues itself together? Again, from the same folks who brought us the adhesion release that isn’t adhesion release.

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And here’s a news flash: cupping gets air out of your blood and into your muscles!

I just used cupping on a nine-year-old and I explained to her that it helps get the air from her blood into her muscles so that when she's stretches your muscles it won't hurt -she also said that she was able to breathe better and take longer strides during her softball practice and she loves it she had one Mark very light left from Monday and has had a chronic breathing problem her whole life she's breathing better and sleeping better her mom brought her because she was not sleeping well, she even brought her little sister to watch today, and talk to kids at school about it this week. basically I am using this to release very tightly bound facsia throughout her whole body"

It’s bad enough that massage therapists say this stuff to adults, but to a nine year old? Oh my. Wait til the kids at school hear about this, they’ll all want the air out of their blood, too.

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Trying to explain fascial therapy to a patient:

Well, your problem is fascia. The fascia is the thing you have to do something with. If you fix the fascia, everything gets more … well, the fascia will make everything better.

Somehow.

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Fascia apologists are forever trying to convince their critics that their fetish for this tissue is evidence-based, clinically relevant, and intellectually mature, and yet stories like this just keep happening (paraphrased anecdote from a horrified patient):

I nearly broke my hand, and I’ve been recovering from that injury. My physiotherapist was treating it with some massage. She described the technique as ‘fascial release,’ and warned me about a possible side effect: ‘You might feel sad, or even start to cry,’ she said.

New 💩 added Nov 16, 2017…

The ubiquitous idea that massage can release “toxins” into the bloodstream leads some massage therapists to believe that nursing mothers should either avoid having massage or else dump their breast milk if they do have massage. Question posed by an MT:

If a nursing mom gets a massage is it best to pump then dump before nursing next or not? Just curious and thought I ask. With moving toxins around I thought it would get into the milk.

And some of the answers…

Now why wouldn't you dump afterwards it makes sense to me because of all the toxins that are being flushed out of the body going into the lymph and blood stream why wouldn't it also in into the milk?

after massage you can flash the toxins by elimination it could be urination,defcation etc.

I know for lymphatic drainage you definitely what to and dump (because of all the toxins being released) I’m not sure exactly with massage but would say it’s safe to assume that there would be some toxins being released (maybe not as much as from receiving lymph). personally would pump and dump just to be safe

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Comments following a post by a popular chiropractor who likes to complain about the “evidence based” crowd. Apparently, those who need evidence lack confidence.

those who need evidence aren't as confident so they need fuel for their fire….

Asking for the evidence means they're afraid to think for themselves and put their neck on the line.

Pretty sure there’s a higher percentage of non evidence based practitioners helping people move better, become pain free than evidence based practitioners?!

They might be right, since evidence based practitioners are probably a distinct minority and even people who are not evidence-based may be helpful to their clients. It still does not excuse ignoring evidence nor does it suggest that using evidence makes one a less effective practitioner.

These insufferable idiots remind me of extreme atheists-they identify themselves with what they don’t believe in, trash everything, rather than what they do believe in.

Evidence based has the limitation of being data driven, and looks at, at best, what works for all- or for a large group. I love figuring out what is going to work, right now, today, for the patient I am treating. Thanks to Craig Liebenson for reinforcing this. Same session changes are very predictive of results.

Oh yeah, but you will just confirm preconceived biases that way......according to the evidence based idiots. Obviously cos you can't figure out what does and doesn't work yourself! I think the hardcore evidence base lot are just really p!$$ poor manual therapists, so they slate it instead of improving their skill set?!”

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From a cupping enthusiast:

Love the accucup clear silicone cups. Prefer them to the hard plastic for deep myofascial work. Able to be moved around the adhesion rather than just placed on skin.

Let’s just bypass that skin and go straight to the “adhesion”!

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An exchange on a FB discussion board. An evidence-based MT wrote: “I'm very familiar with the claims. I'm asking you to think, not except this claim on face value.” This was the surprisingly candid and damning response:

I don’t need to think, I use this every day in my practice and have for the last 5 years.

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A discussion on gua sha produced a gold mine of material. Gua sha is scraping of the skin with an instrument such as a spoon, coin, or other instrument made for the purpose. Like cupping fans, gua sha practitioners deny that the marks left by scraping are the result of broken capillaries (ecchymosis or bruising).

Gua Sha is a very effective method for releasing trapped Sha or Chi causing congestion in over used tissue. It’s a wonderful release and healing.

Except for the broken capillaries.

It looks like bruising but if you do more research you will find that it isn't bruising in the conventional sense more so a release of toxins that the muscle/fascia was holding on to.

Ah, yes, our old friends toxins and fascia!

damage stimulates tissue repair and remodeling....that's not unique to gua sha but used in many forms of medicine.”

So, we damage the tissue so that the body can then repair it. That makes sense?

depends how toxic you are will result in the redness. The tiny blood vessels come to the surface resulting in the redness. not to worry, it'll go away and you will feel better. Gua SHa is the term used for this modality. You should be scared of some of the medical practices rather than of this.

Tiny blood vessels migrate. That’s interesting. I wonder how they do that?

. . . its just a lite scraping technique that brings stagnant blood to the surface it does wonders for getting people out of pain fast!:)

MTs keep overlooking the fact that they are creating “stagnant blood” by breaking capillaries.

Stagnation called petechia is termed in much of the information and classes that provide training for these techniques.....there can be poor flow to areas of the body which this does help to improve and move from those areas...I'm not sure what exactly your saying about this technique but it's been used for thousands of years in other country's as natural folk remedy for many issues.....”

Uh, petechiae are caused by bleeding under the skin from the abrasion by gua sha. You could say there is stagnant blood, but it’s caused by the scraping of gua sha breaking capillaries, not cured by it.

Its not aggressive its the technique that brongs stagnation out feom the body. Thats not bruising nor is it blood. And its also not massage therapy its gua sha a completely different practice.”

So much stagnation in the body!

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From a video posted by a massage therapist on how to treat plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis, they used to think it was basically swelling of the bottom of the foot. It's the fascia that connects the muscles, so it’s not quite your tendon but not quite. . . . So you’re going to be getting the peroneals, so it’s going to be the outside of your leg. . . The first thing I tell my clients to do is to hit, you can hit the outside of your leg (starts pummeling the outside of her lower leg with her fist) like it’s just a broken TV. The technical name for this is “tapotiem” and what it is is it’s going to soften the muscles, the same way that hitting meat before you start cooking the steak.

So, just think of your body as being a broken TV, hit it a few times with your fist, and see if that doesn't get it working. I think she should read Paul Ingraham’s tutorial on plantar fasciitis … or maybe he’d like to add the “hitting the broken TV” technique to it? By the way, the term she wants to use is “tapotement.”

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A man came in yesterday hardly able to stand, with a horrible pain in his butt. I checked him for everything - spine ok, hip joint ok, tec. I asked what was going on. He told me his wife had brain cancer. That was what was being stored in his butt! His piriformis was on fire, and we did find a weak gluteum medius paired with it. Stretching the piriformis and activating the gluteus medius greatly relieved the symptoms. Since NKT works with motor control theory, the limbic (emotional) system is the top of the hierarchy. If that is dominant and not properly attended to, no matter what we do to the body, it won't stick.”

Wife’s brain cancer “stored in his butt!” The rest about motor control theory and limbic system being dominant is just garbled sloppy thinking. Massage therapists pay $750 to attend a weekend workshop to learn this.

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Have you heard of neurofacial component to facia. It has been shown that facia is actually an extension of the nervous system and actually helps to carry an electrical charge. So I wonder how [tattoo] ink influences the conductivity of energy in the body?

Fascia enthusiasts so want to ascribe properties to connective tissue that are really properties of the nervous system. This commenter though tattoo ink would interfere with the body’s conductivity. Fuzzy thinking on fascia and the nervous system.

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From an infamously absurd Facebook post (and incredulously re-shared by just about every skeptic who saw it, because we just couldn’t believe the level of stupidity on display):

I have talked a lot about the effects of scars on muscle dysfunction, but i haven't really emphasized tattoos and piercings. Belly button rings often cause dysfunction in the abdominal muscles, and consequently lower back pain. We have seen people remove the rings, activate their core, and have no more back pain. Abdominal tattoos have the same effect. There was a woman in last weekend's NKT Level 1 in Boulder who has a large tattoo on her side. It was causing all kinds of dysfunction. Not only was her core off, but side bending muscles, arm muscles, and her neck. Anyone is welcome to do as they please, but remember there are consequences from messing with your fascia.

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Another particularly bonkers Facebook post, all about the solar plexus. The whole thing is a bit kooky, but the last point is where it goes off the rails:

The Lakota Indians believe whatever you think about yourself resides in this region and listens to what you say … whenever I palpate this region I can tell what you think about yourself and the world. It’s hard as stone when there is emotional anger, guilt, stress, and anguish. When I release in there a wave of emotion can unleash that is overwhelming.

No, you cannot tell that from my solar plexus.

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An overconfident true believer in cold laser therapy promotes his work to a reader who inquired curiously:

I have been using the ML 830 laser for almost 14 years, and found it to be quite effective. I tested many of the alternatives first. The class 1 lasers don't work. The class 4 are potentially dangerous, don't penetrate very deeply, and do create heat. The ML 830, a class 3b, penetrates up to 3-4 inches, doesn't create heat, and is essentially risk-free and painless. I have inactivated more than 150,000 individual trigger points with it and found only 4 where it didn't work (large buttocks and a body builder's pectoral muscle.). I use 5 cycles at each trigger point, and after the treatment, most importantly, the patient uses heat, followed by appropriate stretches. The latter are critical for improvement. I have also found that every patient with chronic pain has an excessively pronating gait, which results in a postural change with a head forward position. This is probably THE major perpetuating factor for myofascial trigger points and I correct this with a simple shoe insert. I hope this has been helpful. Dr filner

A claim like “I have inactivated more than 150,000 individual trigger points” constitutes an extreme and delusional meltdown of all humility (and a great example of how pseudoscientific most trigger point therapy is in practice). It’s hyperbolic self-promotion using imaginary numbers for something that cannot possibly be known so definitively.

And demonizing pronation like that is laughable. What is it with these people who think they have the secret answer to all/most pain?


About Paul Ingraham

Headshot of Paul Ingraham, short hair, neat beard, suit jacket.

I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.

Related Reading

What’s new in this article?

2017Added a new load of shit, and started integrating examples from both Alice and Paul. If you’ve been here before, the new items are at the bottom, starting here.

2017Added extensive new annotations and a new featured image.