Stephanie Hansen
Stephanie Hansen

Myths that Persist in the Massage Profession

Myths that Persist in the Massage Profession

You can't believe everything you hear. Especially in a profession as dynamic as massage therapy, where research, experience, and continuing education continue to move the understanding both massage therapists and consumers have about the benefits of massage. What was once accepted as common knowledge often changes and evolves.

We asked massage therapists what they feel the biggest myths and misconceptions are within the massage therapy profession. Here is what they told us.

Myth #1: Massage is a Luxury

Christian Perez, LMT

One of the most persistent misconceptions surrounding massage therapy is that it is solely a luxurious indulgence rather than a legitimate form of health care. In reality, massage therapy provides numerous health benefits that contribute to a person’s overall well-being.

The myth that massage is a treat to be enjoyed only on vacation is further perpetuated by the fact that insurance companies have historically made it difficult for independent practitioners like myself to accept insurance as payment. This is a shame because massage therapy is a form of health care that can benefit anyone, regardless of their financial resources. I strongly believe that we need to work together to dispel these misconceptions and make massage therapy accessible to everyone who could benefit from it.

Stephanie Hansen, LMT/Esthetician

I think the biggest myth or misconception about massage therapy is that it is a “luxury item” reserved only for individuals with disposable income.

While Western medicine is moving toward accepting more forms of integrative health care like massage therapy—even allowing insurance to cover sessions under certain circumstances—I still believe there’s room for growth. Massage therapy, in all its many wonderful forms, is so much more than just a once-a-year treat. It helps bring multiple kinds of healing to your mind and body. It helps to bring balance to energies. It works on more levels than just the physical. It works down to the cellular and vascular. It works down to the meridians and channels. Creating change in the body in a safe space isn’t easy. But we make it feel luxurious.

The world needs more massage therapists. More safe spaces.

Cindy Bradsfield, Owner of Mamassage

I believe one of the biggest myths or misconceptions about massage therapy that continues to plague our profession is that our work is not an integral part of preventive care, rehabilitation, and treatment for patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries. Oftentimes, I am my client’s last resource for pain that persists after having gone to several different types of medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and personal trainers.

To this day, for some reason, our profession is rarely suggested as a collaborative option by other health care professionals. On the contrary, as has been my experience on many occasions, if a client has sought out my work through their own online research or by means of a friend or family referral, it has been suggested that my work is counterproductive to what they provide and therefore should not be continued.

I have been a massage therapist for 25 years and this issue continues to be a source of great frustration. I wholeheartedly believe that all health care professionals have a place in client care and well-being. It is disheartening to continue to deal with resistance from our fellow health care professionals as the work we provide is beneficial on many levels. From Swedish to medical massage, our work has an unquestionable positive effect on our physical and mental well-being.

David B. Blum, LMT, CKTI

The biggest myth is that massage is a luxury and not a part of regular self-care.

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Myth #2: Massage Has to be Painful to be Effective

Rachel Richards, LMT

The “no pain, no gain” theory does not apply to massage. Massage is supposed to feel good. It is not a test of tolerance and endurance. In fact, if a client is in pain, the massage session is unlikely to be a success. If a client is seeking massage therapy for pain relief, it doesn’t make sense to cause them more pain.

When someone is in pain, they tend to clench their muscles, making it impossible for the massage therapist to do safe and effective work. In addition, pain signals the brain to release stress hormones, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. This is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve with massage. How can we alleviate anxiety and muscle tension if a client is clenching, holding their breath, and distracted by pain?

Myth #3: Massage Therapists are Mind Readers

Miriam Goldstein, LMT, BCH

I think one of the biggest myths or misconceptions about massage therapy is that the therapist always knows what the client is feeling and what is best for the client in the moment, without any communication or questions. This, in my experience, leads to an expectation that a client’s discomfort will be corrected in one session without consistent treatment or a protocol.

Many clients I speak to often complain of a “bad” massage experience that left them in pain after the massage session. But, most also admit they did not communicate with the massage therapist during the massage session. I am coming from the perspective of a medical massage therapist who also is experienced in stress relief sessions.

Myth #4: Massage is an Easy Way to Make Extra Money

Joshua Chappell, LMT

I would say that the biggest misconception that I see from the therapists that we hire is that they think massage will be easy and they will make tons of money. This can be true, but it takes real hard work in other areas like keeping a schedule and running a business, being aware of your own mental health and other physical needs, balancing time with those who need to see you for your work and those at home who need you as well but are less demanding than clients.

Massage is absolutely awesome and I love it! I just think that more success skills need to be taught along with massage therapy. I think that more cognizant and more broadly trained practitioners can better care for the world and their clients and families. Massage is not a quick fix, although it often is absolutely wonderful! You need time and experience and multifaceted training to accomplish your massage goals.

See Also: Should Massage Therapists Sell Retail Products?