Should Massage Hurt?
Have you been wondering if a massage has to hurt to be effective? If so, you are not alone. Many people believe that a massage has to hurt in order to be effective. Well, it doesn’t! You’ll be happy to hear that the saying, “No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply to massage therapy. Sometimes the most effective massages are the ones that don’t cause you any pain. Something that feels marvelous, and it’s good for you too? It doesn’t get much better than that!
Deep Tissue Massage might cause some discomfort….
A deep tissue massage is when the massage therapist manipulates the deeper layers of your soft tissue. Soft tissue includes your muscles, ligaments, fascia, and tendons (it’s pretty much everything that isn’t bones or organs). Usually your massage therapist will use lotions or oil, and will work lighter at first. This is important, it helps relax the top layer of tissue and muscle, meaning less pain for you. Then the deeper layers of muscle can be accessed better and worked on more easily and with less pain. This will feel much better and you will get better results!
Typically, deep tissue massage is recommended for those with chronic pain caused by tight muscles or injuries. Deep tissue massage can be very therapeutic because it helps with relieving patterns of tension that have developed over time and helping with muscle injuries. With a good deep tissue massage you will feel more relaxed after the massage if no pain was endured during it. It’s hard (nearly impossible) to relax if you are in pain, and muscle tension will release in a state of relaxation.
Deep tissue massage is not for everyone! You are not a wimp if you don’t like it. It is one of the more involved and intense massage techniques. Some people simply like the feeling of more pressure (although deep pressure is NOT the same as deep tissue, more on that later), and a firm massage isn’t always deep tissue. Just be sure to communicate with your therapist about what you prefer and need. Speak up; your therapist will appreciate your feedback, and your therapist wants you to love your massage. Also, there is no point to “suffer through it” in order for the massage to be more beneficial. Forget about the “no pain, no gain” cliche. If it actually hurts, you’ll just tense up, whether you want to or not, and that defeats the whole purpose of the session.
So...I'm sensitive; does that mean I can't get a therapeutic massage?
There are quite a few techniques to have a therapeutic effect that is not overly intense, like stretching the fascia. Therapists use those for example with people with current injuries. Again, TALK TO YOUR THERAPIST.
Pain versus Discomfort
Just a brief explanation to distinguish the two: Muscles naturally react to any sort of pain. When your muscles feel that your body is about to be injured the reflex to deflect the pain is stimulated. If your massage therapist is ever applying too much pressure, your muscles tighten together to naturally counterattack the force, and that is not a great way to relax. A massage is meant to relieve the tension of your muscles so if you feel as though the massage therapist is applying too much pressure for comfort, just ask them to use less pressure. Seriously, they want you to.
BUT: Don’t go into the massage thinking there won’t be any discomfort at all though. Pain and discomfort are two different things. People usually describe discomfort as a “good hurt” - especially in reference to getting a massage. When you experience pain during a massage, it is more than discomfort and could even cause bruising or injury. You know your body best, and most people can easily tell when discomfort turn into pain.
Everyone has a different tolerance for pain, so a massage that is painful for one person may not be painful for you. If you find that your massage therapist isn’t working between your tolerance levels for pain, then it’s important that you say something. Massages should almost never cause you physical pain and very rarely is it okay for you to be left with marks on your body afterwards.
If you are booking your first massage, you probably don’t want to start out with a deep tissue session. Ease your way into massage therapy and start with something less specific, like Swedish or integrative massage. Most therapists combine massage techniques and will try to give you the best massage for you.