Treatment Guidelines for Massage Therapists #3: The Confidence Cure

image by Spielbrick Films

Now, this is the strangest of my guidelines so far–and the one that causes me the most internal struggle. I don’t want to be the cocky therapist I spoke of in part 1 of this series. But somebody who wants to get better might lose their confidence if I only talk about “trial and error” and admit freely that I don’t know what’s going on. So I’m navigating a gray area.

I say “I don’t know” but follow with a plausible theory, and explain that I will use it as the basis of my tryout treatment. But I also speak of similar cases that were easily resolved by my treatments.

Studies show that pain responds to expectations. Whether you say “You’ll have to live with this, if there is a herniation, you’ll always be in pain” or “That’s just a problem of a few tense spots, they’re harmless, but cause nasty pain that will pass in a couple of weeks” chances are you’re right.

I’ve gotten this very important piece of information from Paul Ingraham’s tutorial on low back pain. It’s a must read for massage therapists, so go buy it now!

The problem with pain is that it’s a construct of the brain, not something that happens in the tissue. We like to think that what’s going on with muscles and fascia and nerves is in direct relationship to the pain, but that’s not true.

Since it would be WAY out of our scope of practice to treat the brain, we can treat the tissue, get more mobility, more range of motion, less tension into the sore spots–but we should also keep in mind that our clients need to feel confident.

I find it easiest to be truthful and reassuring by using examples and statistics. First we need to educate ourselves, then we can empower our clients. Paul Ingraham’s website has been helping me a lot, and I keep sharing his information with my clients.

So is “the confidence cure” nothing but placebo? Ingraham has an answer here, too (and it’s “no”). Pain gets worse with stress, and the probability of the pain passing is higher when we expect it to pass. So giving correct, well-researched information is no placebo, it’s a cure in itself.

What’s your favorite source of recent information? Do you have a blog that you often recommend to clients? A news outlet? How important is research in your practice? Please comment!