A potential client called me the other day and said she wanted to book a sports massage with me but was worried it might be very painful as she had had one previously, with another therapist, and she was “black and blue” afterwards. This got me thinking again about the concept of “no pain no gain” a phrase that many sporty people in particular like to quote. I’m not convinced that pushing yourself during exercise to the point where injury may occur is beneficial, but I’m definitely sure that pressure that results in bruising in massage is absolutely not good for the body on any level.
For the most effective and therapeutic work to occur in sports and remedial massage the body should be as relaxed as possible. Obviously some stretches do require resistance from contracted muscles but I’m talking here about the actual hands on deep tissue work. It’s not rocket science that going in too hard and fast can result in tense muscles which then fight your attempts to work on a deeper level. That is why I favour the slower, gentler approach where I ease into the tissues and ultimately I can work much more deeply and effectively.
People do feel pain very differently and, in my experience, this has little to do with gender, size, age or muscle bulk. I must confess to having a low pain threshold myself, it’s taken me a long time to admit it, but I’m quite the wimp when it comes to pain and pressure! When working with a new client I continually check in with them that the pressure and techniques I am using feel ok. It is a learning experience for both of us in the early days. When I feel areas of tightness or trigger points I gauge the client’s reaction carefully as some will be very sensitive and may find it quite painful whilst others may not feel anything at all! To make matters more complicated it varies from session to session as well. This may be because my client has taken more exercise or conversely been more sedentary, or they may be stressed or tired which has a big impact on the experience of pain.
So, in summary, sometimes the pressure or techniques used in sports and remedial massage can be uncomfortable but I always ask my client to feed back whether they feel it is leading to a positive outcome, I.e. a much needed stretching out of a tight area, or whether it is just painful with no end in sight, in which case I will either change the approach or technique I am using, or return to that part another time. The important thing is my client should feel that the massage has been a positive experience and has helped them with their particular condition or injury.