Is it Normal to Feel Sore After a Massage?

By Tierney McCarver, LMT

highly energized and rejuvenated following a massage. However, typically this is not the case for most people. Depending on a per- son’s physical and mental health as well as the type of body-work received, a person can feel achy, sore, and tired after a session. Although post-massage soreness is normal, there is a distinct differ- ence between therapeutic or healthy pain compared to injurious or unhealthy pain associated with body-work.

G Therapeutic Pain Versus Injurious Pain

One easy way to describe a therapeutic pain is similar to that “good feeling” soreness experienced after an intense workout. When a person fi rst begins an exercise program, they are moving and exert- ing their body and muscles in ways that the body hasn’t been exposed to before. This causes stress in the muscle tissue as it is being stretched and moved. The same thing occurs during a massage as the therapist is stretching and moving the tissues of the body in ways that they may not have been manipulated prior. Not all people will experience therapeutic pain.

People that receive body-work regularly and/or exercise on a regular basis are used to moving their body and stressing their muscles so much that massage and body-work leaves them feeling revitalized. Pain and soreness usually last 2 to 3 days and then sub- sides. Muscles tend to feel tender to the touch as well as dull, tight, and achy at rest. After the pain diminishes, people will usually notice the benefi ts from their treatment, which can include increased range of motion throughout their body or in the area treated. There usually is a noticeable difference in the way their muscles will feel which is smooth and loose, just how muscle tissue should normally feel. They may notice a decrease in the pain and discomfort they may have felt before the treatment.

Injurious pain is different than therapeutic pain because this is a sensation that does not feel good and lasts more than 2 to 3 days. When the pain is sharp and achy at rest and increases during physi- cal activity, this can be a prominent sign that a person may have been injured during their body-work session. Injury, defi ned in this case, is most likely micro tears in the muscle fi bers simply caused by too much pressure, over stretching, or too rapid of movements by

enerally, people who seek out alternative healing methods such as massage and body-work, expect to feel better, not worse, after receiving treatment. Most intend on feeling

the therapist. Thankfully, this type of injury can be easily resolved by taking proper care of one’s self in the days and weeks following the body-work treatment. If the pain ceases to subside after a week or two, it is advisable to seek the help of a medical professional.

Treating Therapeutic and Injurious Pain

1. Water: It is very important to drink water before and after receiving a body-work treatment because it hydrates one’s body and muscles. Treating areas of the body that are tense or knotted releases natural metabolic wastes so that the excretory system can do its job to remove or recycle the waste. Water can help aid in this process. Many people report headaches and nausea following a massage that water seems to alleviate if consumed post treatment.

2. Ice: Any sore, tender, or achy spots can be treated with an ice pack for about 10 to 15 minutes following body-work that day and subsequent days. Infl ammation in the muscle tissues can be released when the pain signal and its sensation is turned on during the body-work treatment especially if it resulted in an injurious pain.

3. Stretching/Moving: It is always a good idea to stretch the areas that were treated during the body-work session just like a person would after exercising. Stretching and moving the body keeps the muscles elongated so that blood fl ow and circulation can continue to aid in tissue repair.

4. Rest: In the case of injurious pain, rest is the most important. Too much physical activity inhibits the muscles from healing properly. Conversely, sitting still can worsen therapeutic pain, preventing muscles from receiving proper circulation induced by moving.

When receiving massage and body-work, individuals should make sure to thoroughly explain to the licensed therapist any chronic pain issues and/or past or present injuries that may have taken place so that the therapist can appropriately adjust the treatment based on the information given. It is also a good idea to inform the therapist of a comfortable pressure to use prior to the treatment. Each person has a different pain threshold. Deep pressure for one person could feel completely different to another. 15

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