Massage Myths & Making It Right

Dear Allissa Haines,

I follow you on Facebook. I’ve been to your website. I read your blogs. And whether you’ve annoyed me or inspired me, one thing stands true: I trust what you have to say. Your ability to be honest, and self-humbling capture me as a fellow LMT.

Recently you have been talking about and sharing articles on the topic of massage and toxins. I read one, and immediately shook it off pretending I hadn’t seen it.

Massage not flush toxins out of the body?? That’s ridiculous! Toxin flushing is why some of my clients book to begin with! If it turns out not to be true, will I loose them?? Nope, the writer is wrong. Continue work as usual.

Then you posted another and another and kept bringing it up! (This would be one of those “shut up Allissa you’re annoying me” moments) and then you posted this article.

And somehow, it forced me to face the music. I finally realized there’s no more avoiding the truth, and I needed to put my ego aside. And even though I have gotten on board with the newest research that shows massage indeed does not flush toxins from the body and lots of water afterwards is not absolutely necessary, it doesn’t mean I’m not scared shitless.

What it does mean, is I’m left with plenty of questions. I graduated and continue to practice massage therapy with full confidence in my training and the instructors who have guided me, I have advised countless clients to drink plenty of water so they get the maximum benefits from their massage, I have seen more athletes post workout/sporting event than I would have, had they not thought I could detoxify their achey hamstrings.

I’m scared because if I admit that this “knowledge” is wrong, that it’s outdated, and inaccurate, what does that say about me as a professional? And more so, what does it say about our profession?! What do I say to my ol’ faithful clients who I have been telling this to? Will they be able to trust the things I have to say in the future? Will I be able to trust the things I’m taught in the future? What do I say to new clients who ask if it’s true because they had heard that from the last therapist they saw 3 years ago on a cruise. I think I may be having a quarter life crisis… a quarter-career crisis!

On top of this, I just landed a teaching job in the Salter School’s massage therapy program and I would hate to pass on false information, what do I say to them? What if other instructors who have been teaching for years, disagree with this new information I’m teaching the students? So I’ve decided to do two things in hopes of regaining my confidence and getting back on track.

1. Reach out to you by writing this letter. I’m sure there are a slew of other young therapists who are looking forward to your response too.

2. Write a letter to my clients confronting the issue at hand. I’ve posted it below and am inviting all LMT’s whose own words escape them, to share it with their clients.

Thank you for being a massage pioneer and for incessantly shoving this debunked theory down my throat until I had no choice but to take a big painful swallow. I have become a better therapist for it.

To my dear clients past present and future,
I have some pretty crazy news for you that is new to the massage world. According to research, it has been found that massage therapy actually does not flush toxins from the body.

I know, it’s hard to believe since you’ve probably been told that several times since your first treatment, either with me or another therapist. Turns out that the body stores toxins in fat and bone tissue, not muscle tissue. They are then processed through the liver and kidneys, and excreted through sweat, urine and feces. Muscle tissue has nothing to do with it.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions, and research is constantly being conducted to find the most accurate information. As I say all the time, the body is an amazing instrument, it is intricate and complicated and we may never fully understand the ins and outs of how it functions. Similar to how scientific “evidence” is constantly changing and evolving, so are the facts about massage therapy.

Working with the body IS a science and so we must be sensitive to the simple fact that as new research is done, theories and “facts” may change. What’s important is that you see a therapist who stays up to date on the newest findings in massage research, and is willing to set aside their ego in order to always provide you with the best treatments and information.

Much of the massage industry is still reluctant to bring these new findings to light. Therapists are either unaware of this new information or are choosing to ignore the facts out of fear that they may discredit themselves. I’ll admit, I was one of them until I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by continuing to give you outdated information.

Your treatments from here on out will be conducted as before, and you will continue to benefit from increased circulation, lymphatic flow, stress reduction, increased range of motion, pain relief, among many other benefits. But when you are offered a glass of water it is to quench your thirst and stay hydrated, not to help your body process your massage treatment.

Moving forward I promise to continue to stay educated on the latest findings and newest techniques so that we can work together in getting you the best relief possible. Thank you for sticking with me as the massage industry, and I, continue to learn and grow.

Stephanie Palermo