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No pain, no gain? No way!
Have you had a massage experience that was painful to go through and left you sore for a day or more after? Some people have and it either keeps them from coming back as often as they could use it, or ever getting another massage. They wonder why they should voluntarily pay somebody to hurt them.
Massage doesn’t have to hurt to be effective. In fact, it can be far more effective when it doesn’t hurt. When you are in pain you tense your muscles to protect yourself – the opposite effect massage is trying to produce.
Massage is not a contest to see how tough you are – gritting your teeth, counting down the minutes until it is over and enduring it. It is to allow your muscles and mind to relax and allow your body to heal itself. It reminds you of how good your body can feel.
Why do some massages hurt? As in any profession, not everybody has the same amount or quality of training. But just because one person is not as skilled as they should be doesn’t mean the product is bad. If one person burns the cookies that doesn’t mean all cookies will be bad.
Also, some massage customers believe that it has to hurt to be effective and continue to ask for more pressure. An experienced and well-trained massage therapist will have a good idea by feeling your muscles how much pressure is needed and how long to work on an area. I will try to give you what you need during your massage, but will also be thinking about how you will feel later. I don’t want you in pain or sore the next day.
“Deep tissue” massage is another issue. In my experience when customers discuss other places they have visited for massage, they complain that the therapist did not use enough pressure. That leads some to schedule a deep tissue massage to ensure that they don’t get a massage of only light touch.
Deep does not mean pain. In some areas of the body there are layers of muscles. By first warming up the top layers, the deeper muscles can be worked on without pain.
Obviously if an area is already hurting when you come in it can hurt to work on it. If that is the case, we will talk about the approach before starting and continue during the session. Some conditions should be checked by a doctor before a massage is performed.
My approach is to use the pressure that you want and that I feel the area needs. I will use more pressure in one area than another. I’ll ask before starting about your preference on the amount of pressure to use. I will ask a few times how the pressure is feeling – so please be honest. I want your massage to be great. I want you to get excellent results so you feel good again and come back. You won’t hurt my feelings or insult me by asking to adjust the pressure. I will also be observant for clues on how it feels. Do you look and feel relaxed or are you looking uncomfortable? This is your time, so make it count!
If you have had a poor or painful experience elsewhere, consider this – I’ve never had an unhappy customer!
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
So true! I always tell new and prospective clients how every massage therapist has a different style. I love how you point out that pain does not equal therapeutic. This is a misguided notion I have seen countless times. Great post!
Thanks Jessica. I think some have one experience they didn’t like and don’t want to try it again.
People’s misconception of the need to feel pain to feel better is more common than I even thought. That’s why it’s so important for the client and therapist to communicate to each other before the actual massage takes place. Asking the right questions and having a dialogue is key to a successful massage.
Thanks Renee. I really try to emphasize that massage is the client’s time and encourage communication. I get massages also so I know what it’s like to be on the table.
I always tell people that the pain should feel good. You should never feel like to should tolerate the pain. But a lot of clients do want to feel the burn, its a hard client habit to break.
Thanks Jess. You bring up a good point. My clients sometimes talk about a good pain because of their current condition. This should be momentary and not last through the entire massage though.
The amount of times I have questioned my clients about the pressure I am using only for them to tell me ‘no pain is no gain’ and encourage me to massage as hard as possible! I am constantly explaining that it is not always just about how much pressure is used, but the way that it is applied that creates a good massage, and that pain doesn’t necessarily = gain! But like Jess says, it is a hard habit to break!
I try to explain that pain causes the muscles to tighten up, which is counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish. Thanks for the comment!
My perspective is a little different. My experience has been (as the client) that I have feelings that I have not let go of and if I feel any pain it’s because I am not letting them go. When I do let them go, any pain that I feel goes with it.
That is a good point, thanks. As a therapist I try not to be a cause of pain. When you feel relaxed and safe to let it go, your body can begin to heal itself.
THIS! I believe our misconceptions of this come from horror stories of people who have had deep tissue massages that were painful. I also agree with Tiffany, though, that a good percentage of the pain we feel is caused by tensing up in anticipation of feeling pain. Relaxing helps not augment the pain, and once you do relax you realize how minor the pain was to begin with!
Thanks Tara. I believe some people have had a poor, painful experience and don’t want to go through that again. I agree that some things become bigger in our minds than what they really are.
Totally agree. I specialize in more rehabilitation and sports massage, so I get a lot of athletes who have that “no pain, no gain” mindset. Plus, being a male therapist I often get told by my clients that they prefer a male because in their mind we get deeper. I always have to tell them that some of the deepest, most painful massages I have had were from smaller women. All about educating them and make them understand that it isn’t the goal to make them feel pain, but that it may happen in particular areas. I get better results by going slower and not trying to force it.
Thanks Casey. I hear those things too, and have had the same kinds of experiences you mentioned. Forcing things usually doesn’t work, so I use the same slower approach.
I wrote an article a few months ago and maybe adds a little to my comment above. Check it out if you have time. It’s called The Healing Power of Love.
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