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Butt-hurt about hurt butts

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Last month I promoted a case study with a quick share on social media:

Do you joke with your massage therapist about how they are “torturing” you? It’s all fun and games until someone loses a buttock. I’ve added this case study of a major butt injury from “aggressive” massage to my article about massage harms.

Some folks were bothered by “loses a buttock” because no one literally lost a buttock. I was accused of ass-injury hyperbole! Specifically, exaggerating a case study of a gluteal massage injury. Today I will highlighting my re-BUTT-als to these character ass-ass-inations.

Butt seriously … how do I plead, and so what? What gives with the hyperbole? I actually think it’s worth explaining.

To be excessively clear, it was a whimsical play on words, specifically the English cliché “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Most people got that joke, or at least understood there was some kind of word play at work, but a few remained “concerned” by this.

And yet — and this is critical — my statement would still be fine for anyone who missed the winking entirely and took it literally … because the message would still be, at worst, just a minor over-statement of an actual harm. Because “losing a buttock” is really not that far off from what happened to this person!

Plus there were (and this is important) prominent links to the paper and to an article full of much more nuanced and referenced exploration of the topic. I did not just publish a snarky hot take. (I almost never do that. I hope you’ve noticed.)

What does concern me is that harms like this are chronically under-stated by health professionals and wellness influencers … even as they hose us down with ever more egregious hyperbole about benefits. They are peddling a million times more false hope and bullshit than I can ever hope to counter with my whimsical little exaggeration in the other direction. But it’s a good idea to at least try to put a bit of flamboyant emphasis on harms instead of benefits, for once.

But again: most people just get the joke. 🙂

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