When Massage Therapy Hurts: Understanding Good Pain

It's normal to feel pain after a massage. After stimulating muscles that you don't usually use, you may experience delayed-onset muscle pain. This is a physical response to inflammation as the body heals. This can happen if your muscles aren't used to being massaged.

Deep tissue massages focus on deeper muscle structures and on loosening the fascia. The movements are similar to those of a Swedish massage, but they focus more on the knots and a greater amount of pressure is used. Deep tissue massages shouldn't hurt, but they won't necessarily be comfortable. There may also be some pain after the session is over.

Certain types of Oriental massage techniques also use more pressure than standard Swedish massage, which can be painful for more sensitive people. Fascias are connective tissues in our body that work to keep muscles, organs, and other body structures in place. The fascias sometimes appear as bands and other times as sheets, and it is in the fascias that the trigger points can appear. A trigger point is a small, painful knot in the fascia and is sometimes discovered by accident during a regular massage.

Trigger points often transmit pain to other parts of the body, so the pain you might feel in your forearm actually originates from a trigger point in your shoulder. These points are hypersensitive and you will feel some pain as the masseur resolves them. This may look like you just did a good workout. The pain should go away after 24 to 36 hours.

Some people find that drinking a little more water can help with pain. Swelling and discomfort usually last from a few hours to about a day and a half. The same things you do to treat muscle pain after exercise can help relieve pain after a massage. Massage doesn't have to hurt to be effective.

Many massage therapists are trained in multiple techniques that vary in pressure and time. If a technique doesn't seem therapeutic to you, but simply feels like pain, please say so. We may be able to detect a problem area, but we can't feel the intensity of its pain response. In addition, tell your massage therapist about your medical history, medication changes, allergies, and recent illnesses.

Each of these factors can influence the massage techniques used and the body's response to them. Communication with your therapist will bring you the most benefit from your massage. Our main goal is to help you feel better. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain”.

It arises from a sensory contradiction between pressure sensitivity and the “instinctive” feeling that pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense feeling that somehow feels good. Good aches are often dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet pain”. The best good pain can be such a relief that “pain” isn't even really the right word.

Keep in mind that feeling safe is critical to experiencing good pain. Small differences in trust and comfort can make the difference between severe pain, a good thing or a bad thing. Much of the “good” of good pain comes from the mental context, from knowing that pain is not dangerous or useless, that it will not increase suddenly, or from anything else, disgusting or shocking. In massage therapy, so much can be achieved by inflicting only good pain on patients that severe pain must be justified with vivid, rapid and somewhat lasting benefits, which is a very high bar to overcome.

All health care practices must be justified by benefits. As risk, pain, and expenses increase, so should the benefits. It just doesn't make sense to tolerate and pay for painful treatment without an obvious return on investment. Good pain is an interesting topic because it's a contradiction that somehow manages to make a lot of sense when you experience it.

The feeling is unique and distinctive, but it has no word of its own. The contradiction between the good and bad parts of pain can be strong. Intense pain can involve an undeniably unpleasant, rude or disgusting component, a truly unpleasant quality, and yet be accompanied by a clear sense of relief, such as an itch when scratched. Nobody really knows how a painful massage can also feel so good at the same time.

This is a sensory phenomenon, mostly out of the reach of science, not quite. All we can do is speculate. The main question is whether good pain is good because we expect relief to follow pain, or because positive and negative qualities occur simultaneously? My bet is on the latter. Always keep in mind that while your therapist will do everything in their power to make your massage as pleasant as possible, there are certain conditions that can cause pain, especially if a specific problem is being addressed.

If you get two massages a month, you'll be part of an elite group: only 4 percent of respondents who receive more than 20 massages a year report feeling any kind of discomfort after their session ends - usually mild headaches or soreness which dissipates over time with proper hydration and restful sleep. Painfully intense massage therapy may be sadly common but it's by no means the only type available - Swedish massages are very popular on spa menus and are generally not painful as they encourage relaxation although the general pressure used varies from therapist to therapist. When you undergo massage therapy it's important to remember that communication with your therapist will bring you the most benefit - if something hurts or isn't pleasant then you have to raise your voice! A massage should never hurt - understanding what 'good' pain feels like will help ensure you get maximum benefit from your session.

Mark Szymonik
Mark Szymonik

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