User Experience Research about Massage Therapy
Summary of secondary research, (looking at published articles), about the problem of finding a massage therapist, for the development of an app to help people find a massage therapist
by Gloria Schaefer, LMT
Nov. 8, 2022
The problem is finding a massage therapist that meets expectations and criteria including location, cost, setting, scheduling, communication, and professionalism as well as training, experience, techniques, and performance.
While there are specific scenarios when getting a massage is appropriate, massage therapy is an overly popular go-to strategy to fix pain. There is little scientific evidence to show that massage therapy actually works in the long term. Massage therapy offers temporary pain relief, a short-term inhibitor of pain. Expectations for relief of chronic pain or assisted healing of an injury should be moderated. Massage therapy can distract patients from more appropriate care and patients unwisely prioritize massage over medical care (David Liira, 2021).
To find a massage therapist, you may have to try several, which is time-consuming, expensive and can be a drain on your budget. You may get a bad massage or you could go for more than one treatment but not see progress. Choosing massage therapists involves many factors. After trying a massage therapist, you may be dissatisfied with the settings of your experience and their ability to perform the advertised modality (Ingraham, 2015). There may be distracting noises, uncomfortable temperatures, or poor condition of linens and equipment. Massage therapists may act unprofessionally such as chronically cancel, fail to return calls, interrupt your treatment, and excessively talk during your session (DeLaune, 2016).
Massage therapy does not have universal standards of education and training. Modalities may be performed differently by each therapist. Many therapists are preoccupied with advanced techniques of questionable value, make big promises, and promote false ideas (Ingraham, 2015). Massage therapists are prone to believing and spreading pseudoscience. Massage therapists may spread the myth that painfully deep tissue massage is needed to release tissues (which is stressful or even harmful for many patients). Excessive pressure can cause post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM), bruising, or reactivation of chronic pain. PMSM is routinely dismissed and rationalized by massage therapists as a necessary evil, the effect of detoxification. Rather than being detoxifying, deep tissue massage may actually cause a toxic situation. Patients that live with chronic pain, desperate to alleviate their pain, are vulnerable to a painful sensory experience (Ingraham, 2022).
In addition to being ignorant or believing in outlandish theories that are not consistent with medical science, massage therapists may not listen, ignore your requests, not be honest, or respect your wishes. They may have a poor attitude and be unwilling to accommodate your concerns. They may act arrogant and superior (DeLaune, 2016). The emotional value of human touch and its effects on mood and mental health may be profound, but being touched can bring up emotions. Although psychotherapy is outside the scope of massage therapy, clients unintentionally use massage therapy as psychotherapy (Rivera, 2022). Massage therapy should be considered recreational medicine with subjective value (Ingraham, 2022).
Ingraham, Paul. “How to Find a Good Massage Therapist.” Painscience.com, 18 Nov. 2015, https://www.painscience.com/articles/finding-a-massage-therapist.php
DeLaune LAc, Valerie. “15 Common Mistakes Massage Therapists Make.” Massage Today, 12 Jan. 2016, https://www.massagetoday.com/articles/15160/15-Common-Mistakes-Massage-Therapists-Make
David Liira, Kin. “Why Massage Therapy Won’t Help You in the Long Term.” Medium.com, 15 May 2021, https://medium.com/in-fitness-and-in-health/why-massage-therapy-wont-help-you-in-the-long-term-38421876c666
Ingraham, Paul. “Does Massage Therapy Work?” Painscience.com, 10 Aug. 2022, https://www.painscience.com/articles/does-massage-work.php
Rivera, Corey. “When Massage Quits You: The Intangible” Healwell.org, 5 Jan. 2022, https://www.healwell.org/when-massage-quits-you-the-intangible