Massage Shouldn’t Hurt

January 2, 2018  |  no comments yet

By Agustín Ruiz from Mendoza, Argentina (espejo Uploaded by Partyzan_XXI) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A massage client told me that he wanted each massage to be firmer than the last. He said that forcing his tissues to withstand increasingly painful pressure would “retrain” them to be looser and more relaxed.

What happens when touch causes pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as

unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.

Experiencing threatening sensations does not help anyone relax. Instead, it causes the brain go on the defensive to protect the body from danger. That’s the opposite of relaxation.

Yet massage does helps. Research demonstrates benefits of massage including relief from pain and other symptoms, enhanced sleep, and improved emotional well-being.

Receiving touch in a safe environment is therapeutic. A welcome, satisfying depth of touch can reduce sympathetic nervous system activity (“fight or flight”) and increase parasympathetic activity (“rest and digest”).

Touch that is therapeutic feels good.

So why the do people ask for for deep tissue work?

Some believe that deeper pressure yields better results. They think that the tighter their muscles, the deeper the massage should be. That’s the “no pain, no gain” school of thought.

What I hope you’ll request:

“Please use pressure and techniques that feel yummy to me. I’ll let you know if things stray from that.”