No Pain, No Gain?: Sports Massage needn't be painful to make a difference

The majority of clients that I see expect their treatment to be painful. Some are of the impression that if it doesn’t hurt, it is not doing them any good and will not be beneficial.

Most clients come to see me because they are already experiencing pain symptoms, I don’t want to increase that. Pain is not an unavoidable conclusion and although some sport and deep tissue work can be uncomfortable (often described as "good pain"), I will always aim to work within your pain threshold. Deep massage should only cause good, almost nice and certainly manageable pain only. You as the client are always in charge. I use a pain scale of 1-10 with my clients, and I always aim to keep the perceived number below 7, with 4 being an ideal maximum. If something is too uncomfortable, I can change approach. Techniques with only a low amount of pressure are always used to start a treatment, to warm the tissues, enabling further depth to manipulate the muscle fibres.

There are plenty of techniques that I use that are not painful, and still very effective, sometimes more so than traditional sports or deep tissue massage. I always treat each and every client uniquely and with care and respect for what they want to gain from the session. Every single treatment I give is tailored to suit the person I am working with. Lots of my work is very therapeutic in nature rather than pain initiating. Sometimes vigorous work is entirely inappropriate and instead, gentle, soothing work is needed. Part of my role as a soft tissue practitioner is to ascertain exactly what is best for each client I see, and which modalities are suitable to use. The body responds fantastically well to massage and I am still in awe of its ability to repair itself given a little bit of help. It is not unusual to feel a little post massage soreness for a day or two after a deep tissue massage. This is completely normal and indicates that useful work was done – and best of all, that the body is healing! Common post massage advice includes warming the area with a hot bath or a hot water bottle, drinking lots of water to keep hydrated, and gentle but progressive stretching.

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