No Pain, No Gain? Should Massage Hurt?

In my honest opinion the simple answer is no. No, massage shouldn’t hurt.

However, there is a smudgy grey area in between pleasure and pain.

Your massage shouldn’t have you gritting your teeth or clenching your knuckles or gripping onto the table for dear life.

Although if this is something you personally enjoy then carry on!

If your massage treatment turns into something you no longer enjoy or don’t look forward to, you need to tell your therapist to use less pressure, because we are not mind readers! We won’t be offended. Everybody likes a different pressure and if you don’t communicate your preferences the therapist won’t know that you’re not enjoying your massage.

On some occasions a massage may feel a little tender or a little uncomfortable, these feelings are ok. Sometimes if you have an old injury, or you’ve been carrying around muscle tension for a long time, there can be some scar tissue and knots in your muscles. These can feel a little uncomfortable when being massaged and it is to be expected. But this shouldn’t be painful.

There are also times when you might feel a little sore after your massage, sometimes into the next day. Again, this will usually be because of the breakdown of some scar tissue or long term adhesions within your muscles. Usually the soreness will disappear within 24-48 hours leaving you feeling better than you were originally. This soreness is likened to the soreness that comes from doing a new exercise routine (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS).

In sports massage a lot of people think of the term “no pain, no gain”. I think this is a misleading saying. Yes there might be some uncomfortable moments that you need to get through to feel better, but there shouldn’t be pain. The same as exercise; you might feel uncomfortable and have to push yourself to finish, but there shouldn’t be pain. Pain would probably indicate an injury.

I believe massage should be healing, and most certainly allow you to relax in order for your body to do the hard work of repairing itself. And how can your body do that when you have to scrape yourself off the ceiling after a treatment?

Above all, massage should be an enjoyable experience and if you aren’t enjoying it then please let your therapist know.

This does go the other way as well, if you feel your therapist is being too gentle please also let them know!

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Brain Body Connection

Did you know that your mental well-being/stress levels can have a physical effect on your body?

We all have a physical-mental connection even if we don’t know it or recognise it.

The physiological responses to stress (“fight and flight”) can include:

  • Your muscles tense up ready for action
  • Your breathing and heart rate quicken to pump blood and oxygen around your body quicker
  • Your digestive system will slow down; digestion isn’t a top priority for your body if you need to run away from danger
  • Your pupils dilate
  • Sweat glands activate
  • Blood is redirected away from your skin so you may look pale
  • You may get a dry mouth – again digestion isn’t a priority when you are stressed
  • Your immune system is supressed

Massage can have a de-stressing effect and reverse these actions. It can offer relief to people who are in physical pain or who have emotional stress and tension in their lives and bodies.