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  • Ryan Yorke, DC (Canada)

Should Massages Hurt to Be Effective?

You might be laying face-down on a table while your therapist glides across your muscles as you hold your breath and grip onto something for dear life thinking it’s all in the name of eventual relief. But good news – massages don’t need to hurt to be effective, and you don’t need to put on a brave face while your therapist continues none the wiser.

Some modalities of massage can cause a bit of discomfort, such as deep tissue massage. Discomfort shouldn’t have you trying to claw your way off a table – so here are some tips to finding the balance.

Communicate with your therapist about pressure

Like most situations, if you don’t communicate with your therapist that you’re in pain, chances are they’re not going to know. Good massage therapists can sometimes pick up on body language that you’re struggling or experiencing pain and will ask you about the pressure, but they’re not mind readers! Let them know what level of pressure you can tolerate without pain, and everyone will be much better off.

Choose the right massage for your needs

Quite often when picking a massage modality, people aren’t quite across the different techniques and styles of each. For example, a remedial massage will focus on easing muscle pain and soreness through gliding pressure on each targeted part of your body. This type of massage can feel intense and a little uncomfortable in places (but never outright painful). On the flipside, a relaxation massage tends to focus more on the superficial muscle layers using gentle flowing movements. Choose the right massage for the outcome you want!

Let your therapist know about sensitive/sore spots

Your therapist will speak with you about specific areas of your body you’d like to focus on during the massage, and this is a great time to word them up about any areas you’re particularly sensitive in or know are going to cause some discomfort during a massage. The more your therapist knows about any key areas where they may need to adjust the pressure or massage style, the more likely you’re going to have a better experience than internally screaming in pain!

Recognise ‘good pain’ from ‘bad pain’

Listening to your body during a massage is crucial for a good experience and effective treatment. There can be ‘good pain’ where you experience discomfort but almost immediate relief – this is a great spot to be in. Then, there’s ‘bad pain’ where the pressure is so intense that it’s making you hold your breath. It might feel hot, sharp, or stinging, and not offer any relief or foreseeable benefit. This can be a good indication that the pressure is too much and it’s time to tell your therapist to ease off.

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