Can massage hurt? Should massage hurt? The answer is: you shouldn’t feel like you have been hit by a train after a massage, but it’s OK to feel like you had some work done, in the same way that you feel like after doing a workout. Let’s face it: you have been waiting all week for your well-deserved massage only to discover that you are aching all over straight after your treatment.
Not all types of massage will cause a dramatic reaction: for example, manual lymphatic drainage should never hurt as the pressure applied during a session is so lightweight it is barely noticeable. If your lymphatic drainage therapist applies too much pressure you should speak up asking the therapist to adjust the pressure and/or end the treatment.
Deep tissue and sports massage apply a generous amount of pressure to targeted areas in the body where tension is concentrated. Remember that a deep tissue massage should never take a scatter-gun approach to applying strong pressure: a good deep tissue treatment will combine strong, targeted pressure with medium to soft pressure to achieve a sense of relaxation and release.
Does massage hurt after the session?
The question, though, remains: how come do we feel achy after a strong massage? In a way, a strong massage is the equivalent of doing an intense workout at the gym. A deep tissue massage zones in on your “knots” or areas of tension (adhesions) which require the application of pressure and friction to loosen up the muscle fibres.
The massage would act as a blood vessel constrictor during the application of strong pressure and then as a blood vessel dilator when no more pressure is applied. As the blood vessels dilate, a fresh supply of oxygenated blood floods the muscles being worked on. The “flooding”, just like the action of an overflowing river, will bring in fresh blood and bring back deoxygenated blood. This sensation will feel like a mild ache in the muscles. The body has an extraordinary ability to “fix” itself and massage is a way to speed up the recovery and healing process.
If the soreness lasts more than a day from your massage treatment, you need to investigate why you are still in pain. There could be some inflammation which is best treated with ice application – always check with your therapist and/or doctor.
In conclusion, some soreness after a deep tissue massage is to be expected but massage should never “hurt”, neither during a session nor after it.
Recommended reading: Confessions from the Massage Couch
Recommended reading: Barry Hatfield’s blog Should Massage Hurt?