Traditional Healing Methods in the massage profession

The massage profession also includes many traditional healing methods that are not scientifically supported. It is important to understand Science Literacy and pseudoscience to understand the role traditional healing methods have in the massage profession.

From my post on Science Literacy: It can help inform the science community of things to be studied. Many types of massage are based on tradition and word of mouth. Many various theories about massage and how it works is based on this type of knowledge. These stories or anecdotes are a good way to share information and can be an important part of healing.

The WHO defines traditional medicine as:

Traditional medicine — Traditional medicine has a long history. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health, as well as
in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.

The issue with traditional methods is that there is not any research methods that collect the proper data needed to verify methods. Many of them are based on metaphysical aspects which cannot be studied. Traditional methods are often more than just a simple hands on method. They are a way of life and have a spiritual component for those practicing and receiving which means both have to be studied together.

Traditional healing methods include:

  • Accupressure/Accupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurvedic therapies
  • Cupping
  • Feldenkrais
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Hawaiian Massage
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Lomi-Lomi
  • Polarity Therapy
  • Reflexology
  • Thai Massage
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine – includes Shiatsu, Acupressure, Gua Sha, Cupping
  • Reiki and Energy work of any kind

Working Together

Traditional Methods of Healing have their place in medicine and massage therapy. Many states have separate massage licensing regulations for traditional healers.

WHO acknowledges the contribution of T&CM to health, wellness, people-centred health care and universal health coverage and seeks to bring traditional medicine “into the mainstream of health care, appropriately, effectively, and above all, safely”


WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023. (PDF)

The strategy has two key goals: to support Member States in
harnessing the potential contribution of T&CM to health, wellness and people centred health care and to promote the safe and effective use of T&CM through the regulation of products, practices and practitioners. These goals will be reached by implementing three strategic objectives: 1) building the knowledge base and formulating national policies; 2) strengthening safety, quality and effectiveness through regulation; and, 3) promoting universal health coverage by integrating T&CM services and self-health care into national health systems

The Massage Therapy Profession

There is a great divide in the massage therapy profession between Traditional Methods of massage and those that are set on only having evidence based massage methods or evidence informed massage therapy. The Skeptical Massage Therapists draw a hard line around everything having to be always evidence based. The thought process is that they feel it is imperative to be totally evidence based in order to be ethically sound. They often say things like we don’t want people wasting money on those things or that massage therapists who learn and give those types of massage are somehow less effective or valid methods. These unscientific methods may cause actual harm, but then so can evidence based methods.

Unfortunately, the world just does now work that way. The Traditional and other methods that are considered to be pseudoscience are still valid therapies.

  1. Science Literacy
  2. Metaphysics, Magical Thinking
  3. Traditional Medicine
  4. Science vs Pseudoscience
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. What gets in the way of critical thinking?
  7. Logical Fallacies
  8. Scientific Method
  9. The Art of Massage