It Hurts So Good: Massage and Pain
“You can’t hurt me” As massage therapists we’ve heard this phrase a thousand times from clients looking for a type of deep tissue massage that could be used in interrogations. But should massage hurt? At what point are you doing more damage than good?
It's All About #7
Here’s the thing, everyone’s threshold for what kind of pressure they can handle is different but no, massage therapy should definitely NOT hurt. As a general rule we use a numerical scale and because pain is so subjective, it’s up to the client to let us know when it’s too much. For deep, therapeutic bodywork the scale is from 1 to 10 and your discomfort should never go above a 7. Why? Because even if you feel like you can handle it, at some point your body will automatically switch from “oh this is relaxing” to “this is possibly damaging me so I need to protect myself”. When your body makes that switch then we begin to lose the therapeutic value of the session because the muscles are no longer receptive to the work and will actually tense up and ‘kick’ the therapist out of whatever deeper tissue/trigger point they were working on. This is why during the first 10 to 20 minutes of your massage the pressure will be lighter and gradually get more intense. Myofascial therapists are taught to work slowly and gradually into the muscles so the body isn’t shocked into a fight-or-flight response ( and so we don’t get kicked in the face for dropping an elbow into someone’s back).
Talk, Breath, Repeat
So if you’re one of those people who loves deep tissue massage, remember to work with your therapist to find that perfect balance of pressure for you through open communication, self-awareness, and deep breathing so that you get the most out of the session.