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Massage Benefits And Freedom Of Expression

I just watched a short video in which a massage therapist listed some benefits of massage. She looked nice, her work looked good, and I am sure it felt great.

She explained that massage increases circulation, eases tension, brings more blood flow to an area, eases the ischemic points (whatever that is…), brings the person into their parasympathetic nervous system (I have heard that word somewhere…).

Then she said that “often people claim to be more relaxed after the session”, and that “some people claim to have decreased blood pressure after the session”.

Why do normal people get massage?

I am sure the therapist was good at what she was doing and she meant well with her listing of benefits. But to me it shows a sorry state of affairs in the world of healing arts. I mean, come on people, who really gets a massage because of their ischemic points or their parasympathetic nervous system!

I can just see the pressure that massage therapists are exposed to by the legal and scientific community to explain what they are doing in sometimes ridiculous terms which mean next to nothing to most people.

The one thing that she never mentioned in her list of benefits was that massage feels great! For me and most people that’s one of the biggest reasons why we love massage.

I understand,”feeling great” is not a scientific benefit and doesn’t show up easily in a test tube. But neither can the feeling of love you have for your spouse or your children.

After a great massage session, what is it that most people say? “Oh, that felt wonderful”. Well, maybe there are some that state that their ischemic points responded well, but I have never met them, and I have been doing professional massage work on clients for over 16 years.

Claims, common sense and the law

chair massageWhen our massage therapist stated super carefully that some clients “claim” that they are “more relaxed and that their blood pressure went down”, I can just see her anxious boss and her eager lawyer standing behind her and telling her to never make any claim on her own behalf that massage really does anything useful.

If a client wants to make a claim, that’s fine. And if the scientists say that bodywork has some real benefits, that’s ok.

However we as professional massage therapists can only politely nod but never acknowledge that massage really does have some amazing health benefits.

After all we could get sued, our license could get revoked, or we might have to pay a big fine for saying that massage fixes or heals anything.

What’s the price for freedom of expression?

I find this quite sad. While I know that the massage community wants to protect itself and its clients from  unqualified practitioners and outlandish claims, how much freedom of expression do we have to give up in exchange?

To how much control of the scientific and legal system do we have to be subjected in order to prevent the consequences of any potentially incorrect statement?

Even if we have seen amazing results, health benefits, and even cures with our own eyes as a result of our work, we can never say so. That seems to me like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Why are the ones who know most about the benefits of massage therapy, the ones who are actually doing it every day, allowed to say the least about the benefits of their work unless they can back up their statement with scientific research compiled by people who have never done a real massage with their own hands?

Experience versus evidence

Doesn’t years of experience count for something? Don’t the success stories from all our clients add up to a credible evidence? Why can a physician, scientist or even a layman talk about healing, but we cannot?

Why can’t we say that our work can indeed heal and fix some things if we have seen it so many times? Why does our massage license disqualify us from even mentioning healing?

Our safety record is infinitely higher than the one of the official medical establishment. After all, how many massage sessions have ever led to the death of a client?

Nobody can claim that their work heals or fixes everything, not the massage community and not the medical establishment. But they all can heal and fix some things sometimes. Guarantees are out the window for any kind of healing system, at least on this planet.

A real healing story I witnessed here in Thailand

Let me tell you a real story. A couple of years ago I met a very sick American man here in Thailand. He had a disease that slowly paralyzed him. When I saw him, he could only  shuffle along very slowly while two assistants held him by both arms. He looked like he was on the way out, and rather sooner than later.

Now two years later he is still in Thailand, and he is able to freely walk, swim and travel by himself. He is not 100 % cured yet, but the difference is like between night and day. The best doctors in the US had not been able to reverse his condition, but when he came to Thailand, he chose a different approach.

He went for regular healing and massage sessions with several well known massage therapists, and slowly his condition improved. The massage was his primary therapy, and after two years of regular treatments he has a new lease on life. I have seen this with my own eyes since he is a friend of mine.

If I were an American massage therapist, I had to say that he “claims” to have been healed. His “claim” is so darn obvious to me and everyone around him, but I guess he has to wait for his doctor to confirm to him what he already knows beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Can useful laws turn into muzzling the massage community?

I am all for some regulations that help weed out some potential bad apples. But muzzling an entire healing arts community and subjecting them to an ever increasing control of the medical and legal establishment doesn’t seem to me the right way to go about that.

There needs to be a better balance. No massage therapist should have to be afraid to state that massage has some amazing health benefits and can and does improve and heal conditions to a certain extent.

Thai Massage in Thailand is less restrictive

Thai Massage cartoonLuckily I live in Thailand where such restrictions hardly exist.

Here therapists don’t have to watch every word they say for legally correct content, and where nobody would ever think of suing their therapist.

Here nobody has to tell their patients that “some of our clients claim to be more relaxed after the session”, and nobody cares about the ischemic points.

Massage is very popular here in Thailand and people go because it makes them feel great and it helps their health in many ways, and they know it.

No offense is intended to my colleague who made the video. I know she did what she is supposed to say under current regulations, and I am sure her work feels better than what she portrayed in her massage video through her words. At least it looked that way to me.

To be politically correct, I will say that this is all just my opinion and you are welcome to have another one. If you do, why don’t you leave a comment below? And if you agree with me, leave a comment as well.

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author's pictureThe author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over 16 years. You can reach him at shama@thaihealingmassage.com

 

13 thoughts on “Massage Benefits And Freedom Of Expression

  1. Hi Shama! I agree wholeheartedly!

    As you stated “Our safety record is infinitely higher than the one of the official medical establishment. After all, how many massage sessions have ever led to the death of a client?”

    Well-with this statement, I have to say that many of my clients have “died” on the table, only to revived and get off the table and be in a “zombie like” state. Within a few minutes to hours, they “claim” to feel like a “new person and can continue to work through the rest of the day or sleep through the night pain free”.

    Is this a “cure” or “healing”…depends on your definition of each. It is a “healing” in some aspects if it helps them even for a day or so. As we all know, true healing can take time to be accomplished.

    To me, a “cure” is when they can work or play all day or sleep through the night pain-free for a long period of time (months or years), without having to see me or another therapist to obtain that same state of being.

    Yes, the US is very medical and legal minded to protect its individuals and are very pro-Big Pharmaco, so why let something like massage (oh you can’t take a pill for that) make claims for being healthy?

    Nuf of my soapbox! Thank you for your always informative and terrific articles. Love following you!

    Cindy

    • Thanks for your contribution Cindy – always good to hear from you! I agree with you, a cure cannot be defined as something permanent. After all, the entire human experience is a finite and ultimately lethal one.

      Both “cure” and “healing” can be defined in multiple ways. It’s not a simple subject with a single definition. I think you just gave me the idea and inspiration for another controversial article! 🙂

    • Hi Cindy, we are silenced as therapists in Britain (and in the rest of Europe). The pharmaceutical industry and its political lobbyists have no intention of massage becoming popular enough to undermine their market and take every chance to criticise us, stop us advertising, and challenge every claim we make!

      Meanwhile, thousands of clients benefit from massage and yoga and feel better. As you say, both cure and healing have lots of definitions – and yours is a good one. A normal life is one where you can enjoy your daily activities free of pain and without the need for drugs and therapy.

      We all need to say these things and keep saying them – for the benefit of the people who need to find us!

  2. Fantastic, Sharma! After the effective gagging of British therapists by the Advertising Standards Authority, backed up by the ‘voluntary’ regulating body (CNHC) people are afraid to talk about any benefits on their websites or elsewhere.

    It is time that massage therapists stood up and talked about the benefits of our therapy.

    Here’s one – it restores the mind-body connection, which is so easily lost in our technology-focused world. We are all so much in our heads and our words that we suffer from a sense of disconnection with our bodies and their real needs for healthy food and exercise. Massage helps put us back together.

    Now, who can object to that, I wonder? Not that I can offer a ‘scientific evidence base’ for it – but I doubt anyone can prove me wrong either!

    • Excellent points Sarah. There are benefits to massage which cannot be scientifically defined – and don’t need to – which are just as important as the ones that can be defined.

      Western society definitely lives too much in their heads and too little in their hearts, so those benefits get discounted easily unfortunately.

  3. The way I have always looked at how thai massag,massage,reiki.healing touch works is that we as the therapist instill relaxation,balance,destress so that the persons body is able to do the healing within themselves.We help them open up that door for them.They are doing the healing themselves.

  4. I love freedom in massage therapy. And I respect people who do it. To be free as therapist, you have to know what you do. And always do your work carefully.
    I prefer not speak too much about benefice of massage. Espetially to give example as “ischemy” zone and etc… Let people to says for the benefice.

    So. Namaste!

    Thank you, Mr. Shama for this great and helpfull article!

  5. Hi Shama,

    I studied different kind of massage and as you said all my clients feel happy and relaxed after the session, some they sleep during the session. Some client came to do massage only because they are sad or depressed and they want to changed their mood and feel happy, others they came after a lot of work and stress and they want to reduce their body pain. Also, some client came because they want to sleep well and that what they feel after the massage. Actually, i prefer for my self the thai massage because it’s really helpful to kill the pain on the body from the stretching technique and i feel refresh after the session. So i’m completely agree with your opinion.

    Thanks for letting me sharing with your opinion.

  6. Hi, Shama I just need to forward these testimonials that we have received recently from some of our guests ( clients ) these people are so impress with Thai massage, they all had tried other forms of massages in the past with some results, but nothing like they are experiencing now, these are regular Thai massage devotees, nothing but praises for Saithong and her healing abilities and commitment to helping her guests achieve optimal health, hope this brings light to the benefits of Thai massage. Coco

    Testimonial for ” Gluay ” At Ladysmith Thai Massage

    I have experienced massage, physio and acupuncture at various time and have found them all to be beneficial in their own way. After experiencing ” THAI MASSAGE “, I felt like I was getting the best of all three at once. I felt every muscle, joint, and ligament worked until it functioned like it did twenty or thirty years ago.

    I did experience some discomfort and stiffness a few days later, but I attribute that to ” re-tracing “as the body works back through the original injuries. After the second session I left the table with a tremendous sense of well-being. This sense of well-being has continued several days later and I look forward to it lasting through to my next session.

    The whole of the experience was truly ” Greater than the sum of all the parts”.

    Sincerely,

    Peter Grove, DC ( Duncan )

    To anyone in discomfort or you just want one of the best massages in you life, it is all at the Ladysmith Thai Yoga Massage. They are the most professional, courteous and healing people with a genuine concern for your personal well being.

    I would send anyone to them knowing that whatever the problem is, they can help.

    Sincerely,

    Austin MacInnis ( Duncan )

    Since putting myself in ” Gluay’s magical hands, the Pain & Stress in my life has left me.

    Sincerely

    Lois Leslie ( Ladysmith )

    • Hi Coco, I am so happy to hear about your success with your Ladysmith massage place. It seems like your wife has become a success story in her new environment in Canada. Congratulations!!

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