Before you have your first massage, you may have already had a much idealized picture of what your session will be like. However, a massage delivered by a licensed professional should certainly differ from the occasional back rub you might have received from a friend or a loved one.
What a massage therapist targets during treatment includes:
- Releasing the tension in the muscles
- Promote the healing of soft tissue
- Facilitate the flow of blood
- Reducing emotional stress
- Reducing pain and inflammation
Some studies also support the use of massage as a supplemental treatment for depression and anxiety, and has also shown promise in successfully alleviating symptoms associated with multi-dimensional illnesses such as fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
More than one way to exercise muscles
However, even without secondary health issues, a massage can affect muscles much more vigorously than most people realize. As a massage therapist, I work diligently on knotted areas of muscle that result from the everyday buildup of anxiety and stress and either my clients’ lack of physical exercise or a tendency to over train certain areas. The act of massaging these muscles and stretching them out will improve blood to the area and stimulates optimum healing over the long term. However, this can sometimes place added stress for the muscles which can sometimes result in soreness, particularly if massage sessions are too intensive, too closely scheduled or scheduled too far apart.
Is it Good?
You see, a ‘good’ massage is very much like workout. If the muscles aren't used to it, they often respond with some soreness. Granted, the soreness should only last for a day or of two. However, if the soreness lasts any longer, or is accompanied with bruising, then the massage was more than likely too intense.
Getting the intensity level just right requires that you let your therapist know when the treatment is getting painful or uncomfortable for you. This allows the massage therapist to adjust the intensity level either during the session and make note of it for the next session. As the body adjusts to the manipulation, the intensity can gradually be increased for greater results.
What Can Be Done?
The human body is one highly complex machine, and while we are just beginning to understand the interplay between body and mind, this connection could explain why soreness can sometimes be experienced shortly after a massage.
While there are many ways one can minimize the unwanted side effects of a good massage, I've listed a few suggestions to consider:
- Understand the need to properly care for your physical and mental health through exercise, diet and recuperation.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Be sure to communicate honestly with your therapist, particularly about your general health and mental well-being
- Experiment with different massage techniques till you find what works best for you
- Experiment with the length or intensity of your massage sessions
In most cases, experiencing some muscle soreness after a massage is completely normal. However, if this lasts more than a couple of days, or incapacitates you in any way, then it needs to be addressed.
As I've mentioned, there can be many simple explanations for this phenomenon. All of them are easily remedied, but they must begin with an open, honest conversation with yourself, what you want to accomplish through this mode of therapy, and conclude with discussing your concerns with a licensed massage therapist.