Exaggeration of Health Benefits in Massage and Bodywork

Published: Oct 21, 2022 | Revised: Feb 16, 2023
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Exaggeration of Health Benefits in Massage and Bodywork

When you look around on the Internet and read the various descriptions of massage therapy treatment modalities or bodywork practices, it seems that each of those offers you the complete, ultimate solution for all your current and future health problems.

It reminds me a bit of one of my first Thai Massage training courses in Thailand when I asked a teacher of mine about the efficacy of a certain massage technique, on which she answered: “Good for everything!” At the time I found that funny — a typical Thai answer — but I later discovered that almost every complementary or alternative wellness modality is proclaimed as being “good for all your health conditions.”

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For instance, Chi Nei Tsang professionals claim that an Abdominal Massage is the only thing you really ever need, Reiki energy healers don’t even touch you and solve everything, a Yoni Massage will launch you straight into heavenly bliss, a Pelvic Floor Release Massage boosts overall health and vitality while solving all your genital issues, and Chinese Herbal Medicine is the time-proven panacea for those who actually want to get rid of their ailments.

Mind that the list doesn’t stop there. Moreover, often each of those disciplines claims that their results have been scientifically proven to work, or show you tons of reviews and testimonials of satisfied customers. Anyway, you really start to wonder why bodywork and massage therapists do this, or think they need to do this.

I have the idea that it somewhat reeks of a deep lack of confidence in the treatment modality they offer, or maybe it’s just because of the enormous pressure of competition they face from each other and/or the continual attacks from mainstream physicians and from other officially acknowledged healthcare professionals on their work.

In any case, I find doing so not only unnecessary and misleading, but also extremely damaging for the reputation of the entire Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) sector. Asserting an endless list of (assumed) health benefits is a hoax, or a joke at best, because those benefits are often not proven at all, or only come about in very specific circumstances.

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It would be much better to explicitly state that massage therapy and bodywork can or may help i.e. support in resolving health issues, alongside other therapies and treatments, such as those available in mainstream healthcare organizations. Doing so, therapists stay true to the meaning of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), being “complementary” and “alternative.”

Additionally, there are many other factors that contribute to someone’s healing process, such as the type of nutrition, exercise, medication, rest, lifestyle and work environment, emotional stress factors in the relational sphere, past trauma, and whatnot.

At any rate, the solution to one’s health problems is very often a multi-faceted cocktail of different treatments and approaches, and not a one-stop-shopping Reiki, Shiatsu, Guasha, Yoga, or Thai Massage pill.

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