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New article about massage and circulation

 •  • 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.

The most recent wave of social media “debates” about the effect of massage on circulation finally provoked/inspired me to try to master the topic and write all about it. I’ve been backing away from writing about the science of massage for years, but apparently I’m not quite done with it yet…

So there’s a new article, and it’s already a 6500-word monster — pretty big for a topic that is adequately summarized in the first three paragraphs, and which can easily be boiled down even further to what I’ve put in the title: Does Massage Increase Circulation? Almost certainly not in a clinically important way, and definitely not as much as even a small amount of exercise.

There’s really not much more to it than that, but overzealous deep topic diving is what I do. As always, the goal is to create the most thorough, readable, interesting article on the topic available anywhere. Google has already indexed and ranked it well; in just a few days it has rocketed up through the search results, and I suspect it will soon take a spot right at the top and stay there for a long time. It’s not exactly a popular niche, of course — an easy hill to be king of. 😉

There’s already been a bunch of reaction to this article on social media, a lot of predictable outrage from massage therapists, for the predictable reason: they don't like to hear anything even slightly negative about massage. It’s a huge trigger for them. I say “this one little idea about massage is probably nonsense” and all they can hear is “massage sucks in every way!” Good grief. I think massage is great for a bunch of reasons, just not because it “increases circulation.” But haters gonna hate. Many of my former colleagues decided long ago that I was Massage Enemy #1, and an article that tips over another one of their sacred cows is only going to make them more sure of it.

As always, my allegiance is to learning: I want to undertand and report how things actually work (or don’t.) That’s it. I don’t care if massage does or does not increase circulation. What I do care about is whether that old idea is true or false… and, so far, it seems to be false, or at least misleading and trivial. If new evidence emerges that persuades me I am wrong, I’ll be just as eager to report that. Meanwhile, I am going to carry on loving massage no matter what, as I always have. In fact, I’m going for my bi-weekly massage in about an hour here.

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