Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Does massage need to hurt to be effective?
NO, absolutely not. There is the misconception of “no pain, no gain” or “hurt so good” about massage therapy. Why would you want your massage therapist to inflict more pain on an already painful area? Pain is not the same as mild discomfort. When receiving deep tissue or therapeutic massage there may be some discomfort. However, it doesn’t benefit you if you can’t breathe through the applied pressure, you feel like jumping off the table or you find yourself tensing up during the massage.
Deep Tissue Massage May 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 work lighter at first to warm the tissue. This is important, it helps relax the top layer of tissue and muscle, meaning less pain for you and less resistance for the massage therapist. Now the deeper layers are better prepared to be worked on which equals less pain.
Typically, deep tissue massage is recommended for those with chronic pain caused by tight muscles or injuries. It is not for everyone! 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 proper technique, your muscles should feel more relaxed after receiving a deep tissue massage. Also, please speak up and let your massage therapist know if something is being done during the session that is causing pain. Trust me your therapist will appreciate your feedback. Happy clients are regular clients, and your therapist wants you to love your massage.
Pain versus Discomfort
Our bodies 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 applying more pressure than your body can tolerate, your muscles will 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 (i.e. causing pain), just ask them to use less pressure. Again, if you can’t breathe through it then it is too much pressure for you.
When you experience pain during a massage, it is more than discomfort and could even cause bruising or injury. It is not okay for you to be left with marks on your body afterwards. I also do not recommend receiving a deep tissue massage as your first massage. Ease your way into massage therapy and start with something like Swedish or integrative massage. Most therapists combine massage techniques and will try to deliver a customized session to meet your needs. The key is to communicate what you are feeling during the session so that if anything needs to be adjusted the therapist can do so and you leave feeling like you received a quality massage.