The Myth of “NO PAIN, NO GAIN”
Unfortunately I have many clients who come in and explain they like or need their massage to be firm, and while I can appreciate this completely, when I hear the words “no pain, no gain” it makes me cringe. Far too many people believe the only way to improve the way they are feeling is to have a painful treatment, well I’m here to tell you that does NOT have to be the case, or at least we need to find a balance, a happy medium!
Massage, even by a professional, has the potential to do harm. Some mild soreness in the days immediately following a massage is normal, even expected after many forms of massage. Having said that, what is normal… well up to three days of tenderness is acceptable, not pain, longer than that and there has been some miscommunication on one or both sides. It should be manageable/bearable, if you feel the need to medicate (paracetamol or ibuprofen) then it was likely too much at this point and that’s not saying you can’t tolerate it but more at this time with this presentation it was too much and could be completely different at your next visit.
So how do we get on the same page? Honest communication, this is the biggest, I find I tell most clients at some point, usually at the first appointment with me, “this is your treatment, not mine” so if something is too much or not enough speak up (with any therapist) everyone has a different idea on pressure so its important to ensure we know what you perceive as light/medium/firm and even from therapist to therapist the varies.
And leave the macho behind! I have been ‘judged’ my entire career when people first see me they have often changed their mind and ask me to “go as hard as you can”, well I’m here to say I had some amazing educators who have given me all the tips to vary easily apply a LOT of pressure with very little impact to me, I will also say many of these people have very quickly changed their minds. Don’t suffer through it if its too much for you, you should feel good during and after a massage. Our perception of pressure varies from one person to the next so never assume what you express will be interpreted perfectly by each therapist you try.
If you can imagine a scale for the pain during a massage you want to be somewhere around a 7-8 out of 10 during the treatment for those problem areas, this is what is considered by most therapists as a therapeutic pain, completely bearable for the few minutes that muscle is being worked on. And this should fluctuate throughout your treatment.
Another reason to make it clear why you should not suffer though a painful massage is that most people will struggle to relax if the treatment is too painful. Although massage is relaxing, I’m not strictly talking about relaxation as a whole here, I’m talking about relaxing the part of the body being worked on to ensure the work needed can be done, it can be very hard to allow someone else to move an arm or leg and even harder to relax fully as someone moves your head around but this is often what is needed to perform some of the techniques we use to improve your condition/pain.
Managing how you feel after a massage is important also, and what you do immediately after a treatment can impact how you feel in the following days. Adequate water after a treatment is very important and I often recommend a warm bath or shower after the massage to maintain the heat in the muscles, this is to increase blood flow which is what heals the body. If you are to have a bath then adding some magnesium flakes or Epsom salts are so beneficial as magnesium is great for sore, tired, spasming, cramping and/or fatigued muscles and is readily absorbed through the skin allowing it to get to the areas needing it most. Topical creams can also be very beneficial after your treatment as well as managing how you feel between treatments.
I hope this is helpful and maybe makes your next treatment more enjoyable too.