Some people at the beginning of their massage encourage me to dive right in with a lot of pressure on the area that is bothering them. While I understand that they want their issue taken care of and their pain reduced, that is usually not the ideal approach.
Muscles, especially ones in pain, have to be treated like little kids. To get them to do what you want, they have to trust you. A kid who doesn’t trust you won’t do what you tell them – in fact, they will usually do the opposite. They become wary and hop into mom’s lap or hide behind her legs. They will act this way even if you are offering something that they want or will make them happy.
Muscles have a memory like a kid. They remember something that hurt them and they try to protect themselves. If I start working on them with a lot of pressure right away, they will resist and tighten up to prevent more pain. Even if you want them to relax, they are in defense mode. The massage will help them feel better, but the effectiveness will be limited.
So how to approach these sore muscles?
First I will start off with some stationary touch. This serves as in introduction and prepares your body and nervous system to feel safe to relax. I will then feel the muscles in the area that you have told me are hurting to evaluate the work that each one needs. Having a good starting point, I will begin with some work to warm up the muscles and tissue. Muscles that have been warmed up and with good blood flow respond better that hard pressure on cold muscles.
Having established this trust that they are safe and I’m not here to hurt them, I can then work with increased pressure. Communication is key. I’m a trained, experienced professional and will use the pressure the muscles feel like they need – but it is your body and you know how it feels. Massage shouldn’t be a painful experience to be endured. Instead it should be something to look forward to and enjoyed. Click this link to read more on this idea.
Some have had an experience from a massage when the therapist didn’t use the amount of pressure that they desired, or enough to be effective for the troublesome area. I will spend additional time on an area if you want, and I want to hear from you on how the pressure feels. Speak up anytime – you won’t hurt my feelings or insult me. The massage is about the results you want to achieve.
Contact me when and we will set up your appointment customized for what you need that day. Bring your muscles and take a break from the little kids.
Want to know how muscles are like rubber bands? Click here to find out.
Muscles are also like shoestrings. Click here to read why.
Barry is a licensed Massage Therapist at Main Street Massage in Hudson, Ohio. Find out more about him, his business, and massage at www.HudsonMassageTherapy.com
I really loved how you compared muscles to kids !
Thanks Jess. The muscles are usually less sticky than kids though
This is awesome!
What a great way to compare muscles to kids. It really does make sense not to start with the area that is most in pain. Trust is key in massage.
Thanks Renee. I think it’s much more effective with better results to work this way
Thank you for the insightful article(s) but I have a question about “good pain”. In Neuromuscular therapy we were taught to use a pain scale with 6 or 7 being the max and to continually communicate with the client to ensure the discomfort is decreasing and that it is tolerable. I know NMT is more likely to cause some pain very briefly than Swedish or DT but I have a difficulty explaining to people (I don’t have my license just yet) about the good pain. To me, NMT is working out the issues but I guess the main item to communicate is that they should not be experiencing pain that hurts and for me to let off if I feel the tissues tensing up. Maybe the operative word is discomfort. Any input is appreciated!
Lisa it sounds like you have a good approach. I think discomfort is similar to “good pain”, and my clients say they have good pain sometimes. I believe if it hurts the muscles will tense and not as much good will come of it. I always emphasize to my clients the importance of communication also. I think I would explain to clients the difference between discomfort and pain and that you are trying to avoid pain for them.
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