Pain Following Massage
March 31, 2008 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Is pain after massage normal?

I have had four massages in the past three months. All of these were by different massage therapists. Twice I experienced no pain at all afterward, but the other two times (including today) I am having some relatively severe neck pain post-massage. I was pretty equally tense every time going in. Does anyone know what could cause this? Is it common? What should I do to prevent it in the future, I want to enjoy massages, not regret them.
posted by nikksioux to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
A little bit of soreness/tenderness can be normal after a rigorous massage, especially if the masseuse/masseur was working on muscles that aren't used to being manipulated. Are you going to the same masseuse/masseur each time? If so, tell them about how you felt after the previous visits and maybe they can make adjustments in their technique.
posted by amyms at 9:41 PM on March 31, 2008

What kind of massage did you get today? Was it "deep tissue"? Some people (myself included) like to have the massage be something that really gets in deep and gets the knots out- this can be a little painful, but I feel much better in the days and weeks after.

Sounds like you might prefer finding a Swedish Massage practitioner, which can be very gentle and relaxing and incorporates a lot of smooth, circular movements.

Here is a list of ten types of massage therapy- make sure to communicate with your masseuse about what you'd like to "get" out of the massage so you both have the best experience.
posted by arnicae at 9:43 PM on March 31, 2008

Yeah, muscle soreness if you get "deep tissue" massage and tey do it right. This goes away after a few days.

Note that I never allow them to massage my neck, as there (a very very few) documented cases of arterial dissection following neck massage.
posted by orthogonality at 9:48 PM on March 31, 2008

Were the styles noticeably different? Did it hurt at the time? Is the pain sharp or dull? Have you had any bruising? Did the pain come on gradually or was it there immediately following the session?

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is fairly common in people who aren't used to regular massage. It's the same feeling you get when you exercise for the first time in a while. DOMS will subside over time and shouldn't last more than 48 hours. Some relief can be obtained using damp heat - hot bath or shower, heat pack, steam room/sauna.

Please speak up at any time during your massage if something isn't right. Feel free to tell the therapist if you want less/more pressure, you're too cold/hot, you need the toilet/a tissue/some water, the music sucks, whatever. It's your massage, you're paying for it, it ought to be right for you.

Some therapists can be too heavy handed and of the no-pain-no-gain mentally, which is just wrong. Bruising is evidence you are INJURED and is unacceptable.

You could have some trigger points. I've had therapists actually ACTIVATE trigger points, leaving more pain after they'd finished. Usually they do this if they are rushing - trying to finish some neck work but run out of time and just send you off with your brand new migraine. Again, unacceptable. Trigger points are often painful to have deactivated, but your therapist needs to use appropriate pressure . The standard guide is to aim for a maximum pain level of 7-8 on a scale of 1 to 10.

It's hard to be more specific with the information given. I would discuss this with the therapist before your next massage.
posted by goshling at 4:16 AM on April 1, 2008

Best answer: Goshling made some good points, in particular giving feedback to your therapist to let him or her know what you're comfortable with.

Arnicae, I'd like to add that deep tissue and Swedish techniques are not completely separate styles. What some would call the former and what would call the latter are the same thing. It depends on the client's preferences. If two separate people walked into my room and both asked for deep tissue massage, I wouldn't necessarily use the same pressure.

Nikk, think of this soreness as a good thing: that yearslong buildup of toxins and stress in your muscles is being cleaned out of your body. A hot soak with epsom salts is a great way to continue flushing your body, also drinking lots of fluids.

Orthogonality, I think it's a little weird to not let anyone massage your neck. I mean, honestly, how often does this "arterial dissection" occur? Even at the Swedish Institute, which taught very conservative techniques and approaches, I never recall that being mentioned. The key to massaging the neck is to use much less pressure than on, say, the hamstrings or the back.

(P.S. I am a licensed massage therapist.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:19 AM on April 1, 2008

I'm not a licensed massage therapist, but I am a massage aficionado.

I think that you might have gotten deep tissue massage. This form of massage is the most effective in relieving stress, but you have to keep it up. If you get a deep tissue massage today and then go back after 3 months, your body will be sore if you're not used to it.

Also, if you feel that the massage therapist is massaging too hard, you can ask him/her to ease up a bit. No harm in that.
posted by reenum at 8:29 AM on April 1, 2008

Response by poster: All four times were deep tissue. The two that hurt afterward, I noticed that I was tensing up b/c some of the manipulations were painful. I thought they were supposed to be since it was "deep". The two that didn't, also incorporated hot stones, so maybe that is a key as well.
posted by nikksioux at 1:07 PM on April 1, 2008

Best answer: TA DA!

Deep Tissue is one of those terms that can pretty much mean anything to different people, therapists and clients alike. It can even be a blanket term, covering other modalites, such as trigger point, acupressure, PNF stretching, and others.

Some therapists think Deep Tissue mean means throw in as much body weight as you can and push as hard as possible. I think they are doing it wrong.
Other therapists think that it refers to the what they achieving, rather then the degree of pain they are able to inflict. This is the type of therapist you want. Deep Tissue should be slow and the therapist needs to be patient. They have to wait for the tissue to soften & relax enough to allow them to progress through each layer. This does not mean jamming one's elbow into the client's piriformis as hard as one can. I swear, I'm going to punch the next therapist that does that to me.

This is not to say there won't be any discomfort at all, if it's been a while between sessions or you are particularly tense, have scar tissue, postural issues, etc. then there is probably going to be *some* discomfort, but hopefully of the "wow - that feeeeeeels goooooood" variety, not the fist clenching, jaw clenching, writhing in agony variety.

If the therapist feels you tense up, they should pay attention and back off (off course, there are the sadists who think that means push harder). They should also be paying attention to your breathing, and facial expressions. If a client is holding their breath, clenching their jaw, squinting eyes or frowning, they are probably in pain and praying for it to end.
As mentioned above you should also feel free to tell them to back off at any time.

The hot rocks probably did help you to relax quicker. Most people just melt as soon as they feel the warmth. The warmth also help brings the blood to the surface, which will soften the superficial tissue, making it easier for the therapist to then work deeper earlier in the massage.

They key point is that there needs to be good communication between you and your therapist and they need to work WITH your body, not fight against it. Overall, ENJOY your massages!
posted by goshling at 4:15 PM on April 1, 2008

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