Should massage hurt?

No pain, no gain?  No way!

Have you had a massage experience that was painful to go through and left you sore for a day or more after?  Some people have and it either keeps them from coming back as often as they could use it, or ever getting another massage.  They wonder why they should voluntarily pay somebody to hurt them.

Massage doesn’t have to hurt to be effective.  In fact, it can be far more effective when it doesn’t hurt.  When you are in pain you tense your muscles to protect yourself – the opposite effect massage is trying to produce.

Massage is not a contest to see how tough you are – gritting your teeth, counting down the minutes until it is over and enduring it.  It is to allow your muscles and mind to relax and allow your body to heal itself.  It reminds you of how good your body can feel.

Why do some massages hurt?  As in any profession, not everybody has the same amount or quality of training.  But just because one person is not as skilled as they should be doesn’t mean the product is bad.  If one person burns the cookies that doesn’t mean all cookies will be bad.

Also, some massage customers believe that it has to hurt to be effective and continue to ask for more pressure.  An experienced and well-trained massage therapist will have a good idea by feeling your muscles how much pressure is needed and how long to work on an area.  I will try to give you what you need during your massage, but will also be thinking about how you will feel later.  I don’t want you in pain or sore the next day.

“Deep tissue” massage is another issue.   In my experience when customers discuss other places they have visited for massage, they complain that the therapist did not use enough pressure.  That leads some to schedule a deep tissue massage to ensure that they don’t get a massage of only light touch.

Deep does not mean pain. In some areas of the body there are layers of muscles.  By first warming up the top layers, the deeper muscles can be worked on without pain.

Obviously if an area is already hurting when you come in it can hurt to work on it.  If that is the case, we will talk about the approach before starting and continue during the session.  Some conditions should be checked by a doctor before a massage is performed.

My approach is to use the pressure that you want and that I feel the area needs.  I will use more pressure in one area than another.  I’ll ask before starting about your preference on the amount of pressure to use.  I will ask a few times how the pressure is feeling – so please be honest.  I want your massage to be great.  I want you to get excellent results so you feel good again and come back.  You won’t hurt my feelings or insult me by asking to adjust the pressure.  I will also be observant for clues on how it feels.  Do you look and feel relaxed or are you looking uncomfortable?  This is your time, so make it count!

If you have had a poor or painful experience elsewhere, consider this – I’ve never had an unhappy customer!

My friend Paola also addresses this idea.  Click this link to read it.

Barry is a licensed Massage Therapist at Main Street Massage in Hudson, Ohio.  Find out more about him, his business, and massage at

The importance of touch

The sensation of touch is not classified as one of the special senses of the body, such as hearing or vision.  If you are interested on understanding why, there are plenty of resources that can explain it very well, but that is not my point today.

Regardless of how it is categorized, touch may be the most special sense.

Why?  Because it can have such a dramatic impact on our well-being in so many ways.

When we are reunited with a loved one we have been separated from, we greet them with a hug right away.  When a baby or child is upset, we hold them.  When a person is grieving or dealing with a very stressful situation, we can give them comfort by our presence and touch when words fall short.

Touch provides comfort beyond words.  It says in a simple but powerful way “I am here with you” and  “I am here for you” and  “I care about you”. It says “You are not alone”.

Our language is filled with references to touch to describe important items and events.  We talk about holding somebody’s hand through a scary or hard situation.  We give people a shoulder to cry on.  We give a pat on the back for a job well done.  When we are moved by a performance (musical, artwork, acting) or when something is done or said for us we say “I am touched”.

Many in our society are lacking in touch.  They can go days and weeks or longer without meaningful touch from another person.  With increased travel and computer and electronic usage there is less personal interaction.  Concerns about perceived harassment and inappropriate touching cause some to avoid contact even when both parties need it and it is completely innocent.

The need for touch is real.  I believe that is a part of why massage feels so good.  Not only will your muscles feel better and your mind gets a break, you are receiving the touch that you require.

There have been many medical and scientific studies about the benefits touch provides.  You can easily find them by searching for the benefits of touch.  The studies reveal that with touch stress hormones decrease, feel good hormones increase, pain can be handled better, and a greater feeling of calmness and well-being results.  In a nutshell you feel better.

Here is one brief article from CNN that describes the benefits of touch:

If you are lacking in touch, massage is a great solution.  You don’t even need to mention it when you come in.  You can walk out feeling so much better about yourself and the world around you.

How can we promote basic, safe, person-to-person touch?  Add your suggestions in the comments below.

Barry is a licensed Massage Therapist at Main Street Massage in Hudson, Ohio.  Find out more about him, his business, and massage at