Why Do I Hurt After Massage?

We keep hearing that massages are supposed to feel good, but the truth of the matter is, sometimes they leave us in a bit of pain for one to several days. Sometimes this after-pain is uncomfortable enough that the receiver may not want to get another massage treatment, especially if this was their first one. There are many reasons why a person may feel sore, stiff, tender, in pain, etc. after a massage:

  • You don’t receive massage on a regular basis. Getting a massage is similar to exercise for the body and muscles. If you aren’t used to it, then the first couple times could make you sore. It’s also real easy to overdo it. However, once your body is accustomed to regular bodywork, the physical response will lessen and the massage will provide that more “blissful” feeling.
  • Massage stimulates lymph uptake and movement. I am discovering that many people today have very sluggish and congested lymph & digestive systems. These systems help our bodies to stay healthy by cleaning the body’s tissues on a daily basis, moving nutrients around and clearing out metabolic garbage, viruses, bacteria, etc. These systems can become sluggish due to lack of lymph-stimulating movement & overload of toxins (extreme exercise, chemical ingestion from our environment into our mouths, eyes, ears, lungs, skin, etc.). Massage & bodywork stimulate these systems to get working and move things through. Sometimes this can overload our bodies & cause pain or physical sickness. If you experience this, let it serve as a notice from your body that something needs to be done to get your body’s health back on track. There are many things you can do to keep your lymph & digestive systems functioning optimally (this is addressed briefly in my July newsletter & will be covered more in-depth in a future post). It has been shown that many illnesses & diseases start with sluggishness & congestion in the lymph & digestive systems.
  • Neurological sensitivity (“central sensitization”) is a theory that looks at the whole picture of what’s going on with a person – on all levels of input, including physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. Massage therapy provides a significant amount of CNS stimulation and sometimes this combined with other stress/stimuli that the body is dealing with during the day/week compounds to be too much to handle effectively. Since the amount of stress we experience fluctuates, our response to it may fluctuate as well: at times we will feel fine, and other times we will feel overloaded and experience negative after-effects while the body works to get back into balance. Also, some people just have a higher tolerance to painful stimuli than others.
  • Depending on the type of problem being addressed may be more painful than others. Example: working out those “knots” can be painful because the area is extra-sensitive due to being stuck in a contracted state for as long as it has and becoming tender and congested with waste product that doesn’t get cleaned out of the area. Also, scar-release work can be more painful as tougher fibers and adhesions are broken down to allow the body to replace them with more functional fibers. This will allow greater range of movement.

Please don’t let fear of pain or discomfort prevent you from getting bodywork treatment. A good therapist will communicate with the client throughout the treatment to make sure that the techniques are comfortable to the client; a good client will give honest feedback to the therapist regarding what is and is not comfortable during the treatment. Please don’t just grit your teeth and bear it until the end of the appointment – say something! When discomfort and pain are unavoidable, the therapist will communicate this to the client and coach them to breathe through the technique to allow the body to release the tension held in the tissues. Scientists are finding there is a direct link between emotional and physical states and this connection is being increasingly studied by those in research and utilized by those in fields of somatic (bodywork) therapies.

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