7 Myths of Massage: BUSTED

Written by Emilee Trudo

Way too often, massage therapy has stigmas and just straight-up myths attached to the name, that keep people who could benefit from the therapy, scared to try it. Let me squash those real quick.

1) You Have to Shave Your Legs

FALSE!! Oh my goodness, the amount of times I have been apologized to, for forgetting to shave their legs, is saddening.  If I can happily massage bodies that society expects to have hairy legs, then by golly I can surely massage your stubble or forest.  And look, massage therapists do not go into the business with lists of bodies they will only work on (although there are some that only work on females), just like family physicians don’t get to say “Hey I want to be a family doctor, but I only want to help people who are taller than 5’6”.”  CMTs (Certified Massage Therapists) are educated about the skin, hair, and underlying tissues, we are well aware that bodies vary in appearance, feel, and muscle wellness. We aren’t looking to fit you in a box.  

So bring your hairy legs and take care of yourself!

2) Shower vs Non Shower

I have also been apologized to, for taking a shower beforehand AND not taking a shower beforehand.  Wet hair is not bothersome to the CMT. We have towels on hand for a reason. On the flip side, unless you stink so bad that flies are following you around, you probably shouldn’t worry about taking a shower before your massage.  Personally, I will happily massage dirty or stinky feet, and bodies covered in sweat isn’t the end of the world. Other therapists, especially those in spas, will be hoping that your feet don’t stink and you aren’t sweaty. But as far as this gal goes, I understand that the body isn’t always aesthetically and aromatically pleasing, so don’t feel judged or ‘wrong’.  Bottom line, when it comes to grooming, we don’t care what you have going on. When it comes to hygiene, we care a little, but you won’t be turned away.

3) Massage Therapy Means Deep Tissue 

Nope! Many times people will confuse Deep Tissue with general massage therapy, and in reality there are so many different pressure levels and modalities of massage (which is good, since there are many different types of bodies!)  This confusion even keeps people from getting a massage because they fear they will be uncomfortable or in pain. Before scheduling a massage at any place of business, inquire about the different types of massage they offer to see what is right for you.  Which leads me to….

4) Deep Tissue is the Only Method That Gets Results

Deep Tissue massage certainly is a very helpful modality, but for certain bodies and tissues.  Everyone’s tissues presents and responds differently, and this variation is caused by differences in posture, body build, recreational activities, occupation, health conditions, emotional ties, stress, and personal preference.  When talking with your therapist, you may have a general idea of pressure you prefer–light, medium, firm, deep–and that is definitely helpful for us to know. But beyond that, there should be communication (verbal and/or nonverbal) between you and your therapist, as you start to notice what feels good and what doesn’t.  For example, you could really love deep tissue, but you don’t like pointed pressure. You tell your therapist “the pressure has been great but what you are doing right now is painful and I don’t like it.” Your therapist may respond by letting you know they were using the tips of their fingers or knuckles, and then tries the same pressure but with their forearm or palm.  Suddenly, it feels good again, andy you’ve just learned more about your massage preferences. Similarly, if you don’t like or especially like a certain tool or temperature, or there are certain body parts that need/like more pressure than others, then these would also be helpful to communicate with your therapist. 

The only type of massage that is BEST, is the one most helpful for YOUR goals, needs, and intentions.

5) The Client Gets Little Say in how Their Session Looks, Sounds, and Feels

Listen (or rather, read), if you are getting massages somewhere that don’t offer and allow you to change the volume, lighting, and hands-on techniques/pressures/areas of focus, then you shouldn’t be going there.  I urge you to find a massage therapist that very obviously allows you to make your session YOURS. Therapists will have professional suggestions, but ultimately you get the override on decisions that affect your experience.  That time, is YOURS. Own it. 

Side note: On the flip-side, you don’t have to make any of those decisions, you always have the option of going with whatever default setting your therapist provides.

6) Getting a Massage Means You Can Beat Up Your Body the Rest of the Day

A common misconception about receiving bodywork, is that it can stand as the sole means of self care for that day (or week/month.) While you’ve probably heard “stretch and hydrate” more times than you can count, there’s much more to it.  Treating a massage or reiki session as your only means of self care would be like watering a garden only once a month. It just won’t hold up; you have to keep that momentum going. Here are 3 tips to help.

Body: Choose one stretch that you do when you wake up, and before you go to bed.  This is a good basis for making a habit of reminding your muscles and tissues to relax.  Just like when we learn new skills or knowledge, our bodies too need repetition to understand and remember what is ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’.

Mind: Massage is supposed to help calm your mind.  Sometimes it can be so calming that we feel unprepared to go on with our day.  You may want to try planning your sessions so that you do not have any huge brain-exhausting activities or responsibilities immediately after.  Of course, sometimes this isn’t possible. Regardless, be extra understanding with yourself and whatever state you are in.

Spirit (Soul/Psyche/Inner Self/Inner Being/Essential Being): Receiving massage or reiki can often stir up emotions.  This is because our physical bodies hold our stress, trauma, and emotions in our muscles, tissues, and energy bodies. Therapeutic work helps to release those things that do not serve a purpose anymore.  Whatever emotions come up, greet them with love and acceptance, and allow yourself to fully release what does not serve you. Cry, sing, scream, dance, write, draw, paint, talk, stretch, work out–whatever your medicine is, use it! 

7) Massage Therapy is a “Treat”

Massage therapy has been stereotyped as a “foo-foo” service that you get at a spa for special occasions or to “treat yo’self!”  While I won’t knock those whose career is rooted in this type of massage, I will scream from the rooftops that massage is not a “luxury” service.  Massage therapy and all it’s modalities (deep, sports, thai, swedish) and sister therapies (Myofascial Release, Cupping Therapy, Craniosacral, the list goes on and on) are for healing.  Whether this be emotional or physical, this holistic service not only tackles physical pain, lack of range in motion, and injury recovery, but simultaneously reduces stress, calms the mind, and allows the body to release emotional blockages.  It’s not just to feel good (although that’s an awesome side-effect.) Sometimes, when there is specific injury recovery or pain that the client wants worked out, the massage can even be not so pleasant, but yield amazing, exceedingly pleasant results. 

So if you view massage therapy as a treat, I hope you are treating yourself at least once a month. And if you have any concerns, confusions, questions, or possible myths in your head that I didn’t cover, don’t be afraid to give us a message. 🙂