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Massage Therapy, Sports Therapy
5 massage myths debunked
November 23, 2018

Massage therapy is a manipulation of soft tissue in the body including muscles, connective tissue, ligaments and joints. In fact, it is considered one of the oldest health care practices known in history and dates back over 4000 years!

This is thousands of years of practice that has been used by many cultures to relieve pain, promote wellbeing and help to restore balance in the body.

However, despite its benefits, there are still many misconceptions about massage therapy. Here are five of the most popular myths, debunked:

Myth #1: No pain, no gain

Fortius massage therapist working on an athletes calf in Burnaby

The idea that massage has to hurt to be helpful is simply not true. Being sore during or after a treatment is not the only indication of a productive massage!

We all have different pain thresholds and varying perceptions of pain. Your Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) will use a variety of ways to assess the injury or area of concern and then design an appropriate treatment based on those findings.

Often when treating a soft tissue injury, some discomfort is experienced during and temporarily after the massage. Communication between you and your RMT can ensure safe, optimal results.

Myth #2: The effects are only temporary

Hand on a stopwatch clock

Have you heard of muscle memory? This amazing (yet at times frustrating) part of our muscle cells is how our muscle fibres “remember” to do tasks.

Whether it’s shooting a basketball, walking, or postural tasks such as sitting at our desk, our muscle memory is the communication of nerves and muscles — allowing us to move our bodies in specific ways.

Interestingly, well-designed studies have shown that massage therapy can decrease the effects of stress hormones1, lessen muscle inflammation after exercise2, and reduce muscle and joint pain3.

These effects are known to last for days and sometimes weeks!

Myth #3: Massage releases toxins in the body

There is a widespread belief that massage flushes lactic acid built up in skeletal muscle tissue after hard exercise. However, we now know that these lactic acid molecules (which are created by increasing normal metabolic activity such as exercise) are not toxic and do not need to be flushed away.

In fact, there is evidence showing that massage inhibits lactic acid removal because it mechanically impairs blood flow4.

Increasing water intake has also been thought to help flush out the body. While there is no scientific evidence proving the benefits, a hydrated body is a healthier body so go ahead and drink up!

Myth #4: Massage can spread cancer cells

Doctor this his arms crossed

There is no evidence that massage therapy encourages the spread of cancer cells. Furthermore, there is no evidence that massage can treat cancer itself5.

Some of the many benefits massage therapy can provide patients are the reduction of stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and depression.

Lymphatic drainage massage can also help with those suffering from lymphedema.

Massage therapy is one of the most complementary treatments used by those living with cancer and it is important to discuss with your healthcare team whether or not it’s appropriate for you.

Myth #5: I don’t need to discuss my medical history with my RMT

Massage client looking at a medical poster

Incorrect! Your therapist needs to know of any conditions or medications that could be contraindicated for massage.

This can include surgeries, some forms of disease and other health issues. If you are unsure if massage therapy is right for you, it is best to check with your doctor.

At Fortius Sport & Health, our RMTs carefully consider your medical history, areas of concern, level and type of pain, and how your condition restricts your performance and/or daily activities, to develop a treatment plan based on your needs. Visit our Massage Therapy page to learn more, or to book in today!


  1. Vigotsky A., Bruhns R. The Role of Descending Modulation in Manual Therapy and Its Analgesic Implications: A Narrative Review. Pain Res Treat. 2015
  2. Crane JD et al. Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced
    muscle damage. Sci Transl Med. 2012 Feb 1;4(119)
  3. Jay K et al. Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Feb;9(1):82-91.
  4. Wiltshire EV et al. Massage impairs postexercise muscle blood flow and “lactic acid” removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1062-71.
  5. The Canadian Cancer Society. www.cancer.ca