No Pain, No Pain

April 17, 2014  |  2 comments

One of my Muscular Therapy Institute teachers used to say that. She was drawing a contrast to the counterproductive cliché “no pain, no gain.”

My massage therapy teacher was right.

When your nervous system senses noxious input – like too much pressure from someone’s hands – your brain does its best to protect you. You might feel pain, which is your body’s clear signal to stop whatever’s causing it. You might get an endorphin rush, which is your brain’s way of getting you through a difficult situation.

Emotions have been defined as physical sensations + thoughts. When a massage therapist’s touch causes a client to feel pain, the client’s body and mind come to associate pain + massage. This creates strong memories.

When this happens, it can be difficult even for professional bodyworkers to speak up. Yet we are just as vulnerable as all human beings. Here is a revelation of a blog post from professional massage therapy teacher Ian Harvey: “My Massage Therapist Hurt Me.” 

So why do people often think therapeutic massage should be painful?

There is no tally-sheet that lets us trade pain for pleasure. There is only the nervous system that perceives what it’s exposed to, and then does what it can to protect our vulnerable physical bodies.

Why are you getting a massage?

I imagine it’s because you want to feel better. You might be seeking relief from the discomfort of pain or stress. Perhaps you want to create greater comfort and well-being for yourself.

Massage can offer the nervous system sensations it interprets as safe and beneficial. This retrains the brain to become more like that and send signals to the body: More relaxation, more comfort, more ease.

What do you want from massage therapy?