Artful Touch Massage & Wellness Center

Should A Massage Cause Pain?

“No pain, no gain,” right?....Not necessarily. Rather than go on and on about various sensations that we describe as “pain,” let’s talk about this in terms of discomfort.

Generally speaking, if you are uncomfortable or unable to relax, then your massage will not achieve the desired results. When your muscles experience pain from excessive pressure, they tense up to protect themselves and to protect underlying nerves, blood vessels, and organs. Also, you will stop breathing normally out of stress. Both of these reactions are exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve by means of massage therapy. There are forms of deep tissue massage that may invoke momentary discomfort, but if it starts to take you out of the experience or makes you catch your breath, your massage therapist needs to know.

Now, in the case of some forms of deep tissue, in which the therapist is attempting to “strip” those deeper and more ischemic muscles and tissues, there may be some stinging, burning, twinging, or even pinching sensations. Your therapist needs to know about all of these. Good communication will lead to a level of discomfort that can be productive. If you alert your therapist to the discomfort you are feeling, and he or she disregards your feedback or tells you he or she needs to keep massaging with that pressure, you have the right—and probably the need and desire—to end the session.

Massage is not “one size fits all.” Some clients simply relax more easily than others or need deeper pressure to feel relief. But it is up to you as a client to dictate how much pressure is too much. There is benefit to that “hurts so good” feeling that many talented massage therapists are known for. Simply remember that it should feel GOOD—to you!

What about after your massage? Some of how you feel post-massage will depend on your level of health, whether you had an overly aggressive massage, and your self-care after the session. When working out the ischemia in your muscles, your massage therapist is releasing lactic acid and other toxins from your muscles, which then must enter your blood stream and eventually exit through your urinary tract and sweat. What that means is: you may feel tired, lethargic, and maybe even a bit sore if you are not receiving massages frequently. Your massage therapist may give you a bottle of water after your session or instruct you to drink plenty of water. This is to help your body flush those toxins through your body faster. Your massage therapist achieves this "flush" by causing minor amounts of inflammation to your connective tissues to initiate an inflammatory histamine and healing response. If you are prone to heightened inflammatory responses, if your bruise easily, or if you have other health concerns that may cause a lengthened healing period, a lighter pressure massage may be indicated. Your therapist will need to know this before your session.

How well you recover can depend much on you. If you are physically active, your muscles will flush toxins out more quickly. Eating healthy, clean foods also helps your tissues heal, as you are receiving the proper nutrients necessary for rebuilding cells and tissues sans inflammatory foods. Food high in sodium, refined sugars, and alcohols can cause dehydration, which may make you feel worse post-massage. Some report feeling bruised or overly sore and fatigued after a massage. This may indicate a few things:

  • Your massage therapist may need better communication.
  • You may have a health issue that would contraindicate massage or would indicate reduced pressure.
  • You may be dehydrated.

If you continue to feel pain for more than a few days after your massage, seek some medical attention.

Keep in mind that your massage therapist has your health and safety in mind. So ultimately, your comfort in a massage will come down to your communication with your therapist and your level of health.