Massage Doesn’t Work

I’m sure you’re asking yourself “why is the owner of a massage and wellness center saying that massage doesn’t work?”

Let me clarify….

Massage doesn’t work if you don’t do the work.

Let me ask you a few questions here, let’s say you have just general back pain.  We’re not going to get into specifics, but I’m going to paint a picture that many of you can relate to.

  • Do you sit a lot?
  • Do you wake up and feel stiff and achy?
  • Do you have trouble bending over to pick something up off of the floor?
  • Are you prone to headaches?
  • Is your form less than stellar when you work out?
  • Do you even work out or do you find that it causes pain as well?
  • Have you been dealing with that general back pain for more than a day?  More than a week?  More than a month?  More than a year?  Longer?
  • What have you done to try and fix it?  Chiropractic?  Physical therapy?  Massage?  Pain meds?  Surgery?
  • How long have you stuck with whatever you were doing to try and fix it?  One session?  Three?  Five?

I have some bad news for you.  One massage does not cure a lifetime of back pain.

I see it countless times in my practice.  Someone calls, says they have back/neck/shoulder/hip/foot/whatever other body pain and they book an appointment.  They come in for a session, they feel good when they leave and then they complain later that it still hurts.  So they say massage didn’t fix it.

Now let me ask you another set of questions:

  • Do you have a personal trainer that will guarantee that you will be able to do a body weight squat or strict pull up or 50 perfect push ups after your first session?
  • Do you follow a diet that says if you eat ‘clean’ for a week you’ll lose those 30 pounds you’ve gained over the last couple of years?
  • Do you go to one yoga class and expect to be able to do headstands immediately?

I’m guessing the answer is no to all of those scenarios.


As I sit here typing this I am eating a concoction of Greek yogurt, almond milk, steel cut oats, chia seeds and strawberries.  It’s okay, but I am having the kind of week where I just want to dive face first into a plate of extra cheesy pizza and bread sticks.  But, I am also trying to lose those 30 pounds that I’ve gained over the last couple of years and I know that pizza isn’t the answer.

Just like massage.  Things aren’t going to be fixed in one hour.  Especially when you’ve had a problem for years.

“But it’s too expensive” you might be saying to yourself.

When you think about it, can you put a price on being able to move your body without pain?  (Or at the very least, with reduced pain?).

“But my insurance doesn’t cover massage” you are thinking.

Guess what?  I hate that too.  Also, most of us are on a higher deductible health plan.  I mean, my deductible is $6500 and I went to the doctor TWICE last year.  Why do I even have insurance?!  I’m further ahead spending those several hundred dollars a month on a savings account or investing it, but knowing my luck I will get hit by a bus on December 31…..BUT, did you know that we are now offering a superbill receipt?  And it’s complimentary?  A super bill is an itemized receipt of charges as well as the ICD10 codes that you can submit to your insurance company.  Some may get 100% reimbursement.  Some may get 50%.  Some may get nothing.  But if you are like me and have a high deductible health plan, do you also have an HSA (health savings account)?  We have many clients that will use their HSA cards to pay for their massage services and it has never been an issue.  That’s an option as well.

Now I know this may seem a little ranty, but honestly, it’s frustrating to see so many people walking through life with pain, and think that that’s the norm.  IT’S NOT.  The problem is that your neuromuscular system has been sending these signals to your body for so long because you’ve been walking around in pain for so long that your body thinks this is how its supposed to be.  Then you come in, get a massage, but then a couple of days later, things go back to ‘normal’.  Then you say that the massage didn’t work or didn’t last.

When you are in pain, and you start coming in regularly (if it’s acute or chronic pain) I may make a recommendation to come in 1-2 times a week for several weeks.  The purpose is to break down the tissues and fibers before they have a chance to regroup and form their next form of attack.  It’s like working out.  I am going to do my first Crossfit workout in 3+ years tomorrow.  It’s going to be awful.  I am going to be sore for DAYS.  Because my body isn’t used to it.  So it’s going to want to fight and seize up and everything is going to hurt.  But, I’m going to go back for more, and eventually my body is going to get the memo that says “okay, this is what we are doing now, so lets adjust accordingly”.

Say you come in because you’ve got frozen shoulder syndrome.  (I just saw someone recently for this).  It’s been bothering you for a year.  We spend 60 minutes on it and you get an increase in your range of motion.  And you leave feeling good.  Is that it?  Is the pain gone?  I’d bet my savings account that in a few days or a week, it’s going to go right back where it was.  Why?  Because your brain is so used to that wrong way of movement that it’s going to revert back to it.  Now say you come in and get treated and then you come in 3-5 days later, maybe for just a 30 minute session, and then another 5 days after that, and maybe after that we stretch it out to 7 days.  Things are feeling good but then you miss your next appointment and suddenly, the pain is back and your range of motion is limited.  Are you starting over from scratch?  Not necessarily, but it might be a good idea to resume a twice weekly schedule for the next 2 weeks to give the body enough time to 1) chill the eff out and 2) send those signals to the brain that you’re in charge now and you’re changing things.

So please, stop saying that massage doesn’t work if you only give it one chance.  Instead, ask yourself if it’s worth it, if your health and wellness is worth it to make the time and financial investment to fix your problems.

In good hands,

Rebecca Tamm, LMT