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No Pain, Still Gain | Alicia Michaelis, Licensed Massage Therapist | Conway, Arkansas

No Pain, Still Gain

I have had several clients on their first visit make it clear that they want some serious work done. I’ll get comments like “Dig in”, “I know it’s gonna hurt”, or “I like really deep massage.” Usually these people—probably from past experience—believe that bodywork has to be painful to be effective. They expect to leave hurting if the massage was done to their expectations.

The truth of the matter is the “no pain, no gain” mentality doesn’t have to apply to bodywork. While some modalities may be intense, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be writhing in pain. If you aren’t breathing comfortably, want to cringe, make a face, or tighten up, then the technique is too much. Your body will automatically go into protective mode and in turn block any positive change.

To avoid triggering these negative responses, it is imperative to provide feedback during your massage session. I try to explain it as a scale of intensity from 1-10. If you’re at one, you should be thinking, “are you even doing anything?” If you’re at a ten, you’re more like “call 911 now!” Obviously I’ll never go to a 10 on intensity. If you’re in an eight or nine range, you should communicate that immediately. If it’s a therapeutic massage, the massage therapist may stay at that level if there is more value to be gained, but only if it’s manageable and you haven’t tightened up.

If at any time during your session the massage does feel too painful, be sure to speak up. By slowing down the technique, the intensity can be eased without loosing the therapeutic value. If it’s a case of nerves or stress, just remember to breathe. Deep breaths will open your body up and you’ll stay more comfortable.

Everyone is different. Each person starts at different places, and each body responds differently, not to mention pain thresholds are widely varied. What one person may find to be “just right” another would call torture.

Bodywork doesn’t have to be a test of how tough you are. By understanding that a painful massage session isn’t really helping your body heal and giving proper feedback, you’ll have a great experience in the massage session and feel better afterwards.

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