Massage Should Feel Good: Refuting the "No Pain, No Gain" Myth
Since becoming a massage therapist in Morganton, NC, I am shocked by the stories of clients who have been bruised and experience days of pain after a massage therapy session from other therapists. Even more shocking to me, is that people are being told they must endure this pain to experience the many wonderful benefits of massage therapy. Some therapists and organizations have even attached the word “medical” to their work to justify this type of practice. It seems that some have a misconception that if it doesn’t hurt, it must not be helping. Surely this type of thinking is a product of the old “no pain, no gain” way of thinking that has dominated our culture for too long. Research is beginning to confirm that this way of thinking is out-dated. Even when working on trigger points, anything beyond mild discomfort is counter- productive.
I won’t bore you with a full on lesson on our nervous system and how it works, but I would like to touch on a few important points. Our body’s nervous system is comprised of brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings. Receptors in the skin send messages to the brain that is accessed through the skin and muscles. When a massage therapist is massaging the soft tissue of your body, impulses travel as messages to the brain, accessing the nervous system. The brain processes these impulses and then sends out messages that create the changes we observe after a massage. Pain and tension are relieved, breathing slowed, blood pressure lowered, and stress relieving hormones are released into the body. These are the conditions our body requires for pain relief and healing of any type.
When a massage therapist goes too deep, too quickly, he/she activates the receptors known as nociceptors. "Noci" in Latin means “injurious” or “hurt”. These receptors detect pain or stimuli that can cause harm to the skin or other tissues of the body. They ignite a quick response in us to move away from what is causing this pain, to help us avoid injury. They can also cause a dull pain in an injured area, to encourage us not to use that part of the body until it is healed. Nociceptors play an important role in protecting us from injury.
Working deep into the soft tissue is best accomplished with slow and proper warming up of the muscles, and deep breathing to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Applying deep, intense pressure into the soft tissue before it is warmed up causes injury to your body. YOU DO NOT have to endure that type of discomfort to get relief from pain caused by muscle tension and trigger points. You can get relief and not endure injury to your body. Imagine enjoying your massage, with all the wonderful sensations, AND getting the pain relief you long for. That being said, pain thresholds vary, so it is important to cultivate a client/therapist relationship that encourages open communication.
After reading this, you may be wondering exactly what I mean when I say “deep tissue” massage? NOT pain. NOT causing injury to your body. I will never attempt to bully your body into the relaxed state that is necessary for true healing to happen. I will, however, facilitate healing, by creating the right conditions for your body to heal and let go of pain and tension. I will coax it gently with various massage techniques and
encouraging you to breath deeply. When your tissues have softened, I will then (and only then) access the deeper layers of your soft tissue. I specialize in a nurturing, therapeutic massage that gets results. I help my clients access that place within themselves where they can relax and let go of whatever is ailing their body. You can enjoy your massage and experience relief from painful conditions such as sciatica, upper back and neck pain, low back pain, and headaches. If this sounds like something you would like to experience, give me a call and we will get you scheduled.
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