Is It Normal To Be Sore After A Massage? Here’s What You Need To Know

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After indulging in a relaxing massage, you may be met with soreness and tenderness that wasn’t present prior to the session. This occurrence can leave many questioning if it is normal and what they should do next.

A massage can take various forms such as deep tissue, Swedish or Thai yoga, each having their own unique pressure techniques. With manipulation of the soft tissue, comes potential for discomfort depending on how much tension your muscles are holding onto.

“Massage essentially helps break up adhesions in muscle fibers and scar tissue caused by overuse, injury or surgery,” says Lauren Roxburgh, certified Structural Integration practitioner at Body Alignment Venice

The act of pushing and pulling the body’s deeper tissues can cause a release of lactic acid which creates short-term inflammation, resulting in pain. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate a negative experience, as muscle soreness during or after workout routines has similar effects.

Much like exercise, massage promotes blood flow to the targeted areas as well as rebuilding muscles to become stronger. In addition, when the body eases out of fight-or-flight mode into relaxation, emotions stored in certain parts of the body can finally come to surface, potentially causing more emotional release than physical pain.

As there are numerous benefits to regular massages, why quit if post-massage soreness only lasts for several days? Check out our tips below to see how you can manage any discomfort while continuing to reap the rewards from a good old-fashioned rubdown!

Understanding Post-Massage Soreness

Massage therapy is a relaxing and rejuvenating experience that provides numerous benefits, including reducing stress levels, improving sleep patterns, and relieving muscle tension. However, some people may experience post-massage soreness, leaving them to wonder if this sensation is normal or something to be concerned about.

Causes of Post-Massage Soreness

Post-massage soreness is typically caused by the muscles being stretched, manipulated, and used in new ways during massage. This can cause the muscles to become fatigued, leading to feelings of discomfort or soreness.

In addition, deep tissue massages specifically target deeper layers of muscle tissue, which can result in more profound sensations of soreness. The pressure applied during the massage may also play a role in how sore you feel afterward.

Another factor contributing to post-massage soreness may be related to the body’s natural inflammatory response. Massage promotes blood flow, which increases circulation and aids in stimulating the lymphatic system. As a result, post-massage soreness may occur due to the release of toxic waste products that have built up in the muscles.

Duration of Post-Massage Soreness

The length of time post-massage soreness lasts can vary depending on several factors, such as the intensity of the massage and the individual’s overall health status.

Generally speaking, post-massage soreness should resolve within 24-48 hours following your session. If soreness persists beyond this period, it may indicate that the massage was too aggressive or that an underlying issue needs to be addressed. In this case, it may be beneficial to consult with a medical professional or licensed massage therapist for further evaluation.

Treatments for Post-Massage Soreness

If you are experiencing post-massage soreness, there are several measures you can take to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water before and after your massage session can help flush out toxins that may contribute to muscle soreness.
  • Take a warm bath or shower: Soaking in warm water can aid in relaxing the muscles and reducing inflammation.
  • Use heating pads or ice packs: Depending on the type of soreness you’re experiencing, using heat or cold therapy may help alleviate pain. Apply heating pads for chronic soreness; use an ice pack for acute soreness such as swelling.
  • Gentle stretching: Simple stretches can help keep muscles supple and reduce soreness.
  • Schedule follow-up appointments: Regular massage sessions can prevent future muscle soreness and increase the overall benefits of massage therapy.

Preventing Post-Massage Soreness

Avoiding post-massage soreness altogether is not always possible; however, there are a few things you can do to decrease its likelihood:

  • Communicate with your masseuse/masseur: Let them know if you experience any discomfort during the session. Also, discuss pressure levels so they can adjust accordingly ahead of time.
  • Relax: The more relaxed your body is, the easier it will be for your massage therapist to work deeply without causing undue strain on the muscles.
  • Don’t rush into intense massages: If you’re new to massage therapy, consider starting with lighter-pressured styles before moving onto deep tissue massages.
  • Choose therapists wisely: Look for qualified and licensed professionals who have experience in the styles of massage you’re interested in.
  • Take care of your body: Ensuring adequate hydration and engaging in regular physical activity can make it easier for your muscles to handle the stresses that come along with receiving a massage. Stretching concurrently or before getting massaged could also increase overall flexibility, lessening muscle strain.
“Proper communication is key to ensuring a comfortable massage experience.” – American Massage Therapy Association

While post-massage soreness may be uncomfortable, it’s perfectly normal. Your body reacts differently to each session, so even if you’ve been to hundreds of massages, one might leave you feeling more tender than others. Keeping hydrated, taking warm baths, stretching exercises, using heat/cold therapy, scheduling follow-up appointments, and other prevention methods can all help alleviate this inevitable sensation. However, persistent soreness beyond two days needs medical attention.

The Science Behind Post-Massage Soreness

Muscle Inflammation

One of the reasons you may be feeling sore after a massage is due to muscle inflammation. When a massage therapist works on your muscles, they apply pressure and stimulate blood flow, which can lead to small tears in the muscle tissue. This causes an inflammatory response as your body works to repair these microtears.

According to Dr. Stephanie Leaf, a chiropractor and licensed massage therapist, “Inflammatory response is almost always involved when we talk about pain or discomfort following intense exercise or physical activity, including deep tissue massage.” She also advises that mild inflammation is normal and necessary for muscle recovery, but excessive or prolonged inflammation can delay healing and cause more pain.

Lactic Acid Buildup

You may have heard lactic acid being blamed for post-workout soreness and fatigue, but it’s actually not entirely accurate. Lactic acid is produced by the body during anaerobic energy production, such as high-intensity exercise, and can cause temporary muscle burning and fatigue.

Research has shown that lactate is quickly converted back into usable energy sources, and the soreness and stiffness experienced after a workout – or massage – is actually caused by the inflammation and tissue damage discussed earlier.

Muscle Fiber Microtears

During a massage, especially a deep tissue massage, your therapist will use techniques like stripping, kneading, and compression to manipulate and stretch your muscles. While this is beneficial for overall muscle health, it can also cause tiny fiber tears in the muscle tissue.

Dr. Whitney Lowe, author of “Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy,” explains that these microtears are a natural part of muscle growth and repair. “The muscle fibers go through an adaptive process in response to both the training and massage stimulus,” he says, “which leads to improved tissue health and muscle performance.”

Nerve Compression

Another reason you may feel sore after a massage is due to some minor nerve compression that can occur during deep tissue massages or other types of bodywork.

“Blood vessels and nerves get compressed when pressure is applied resting muscle too long,” explains Rachel Coffey, a licensed massage therapist. She advises clients to speak up if they experience any sudden sharp pain during a massage so that their therapist can adjust or stop the technique causing the discomfort.

Dr. Brent A. Bauer, director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic, adds that temporary nerve irritation should resolve itself quickly and not cause any lasting damage.

“It’s likely that the occasional mild tingling sensation has more to do with local physical stimulation than any pathology or disease process,” Dr. Bauer writes on the Mayo Clinic website.

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe nerve symptoms like numbness, tingling, or weakness, seek medical attention immediately as it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

Post-massage soreness is normal and usually a sign that your muscles are working hard to recover from the manipulation and stress caused by a massage. However, if you experience excessive or prolonged pain, swelling, bruising, or nerve symptoms, speak with your doctor or massage therapist to ensure there isn’t a more significant issue at play.

Factors That Contribute To Post-Massage Soreness

Pressure and Techniques Used

Muscle soreness after getting a massage is often due to the pressure and techniques used during the session. While gentle kneading of muscles can help in releasing tension, deep tissue massages use more intense pressure to target deeper muscle layers.

A massage therapist may also use stretching or compression techniques that require the exertion of force on your body parts. The intensity of these techniques can vary from person to person according to their pain threshold or specific needs.

“The pressure applied by massage therapy should never hurt or cause discomfort.” -Mayo Clinic Staff

If you find that your massage techniques are hurting or causing substantial pain, you must inform your masseuse immediately so they could adjust their approach accordingly.

Individual Pain Threshold

The amount of post-massage soreness one experiences mostly depends on an individual’s natural pain threshold, which varies from one person to another. If someone is not used to working out regularly or getting massages frequently, their muscles might feel more sensitive due to lower tolerance levels.

Sometimes, people going through periods of chronic pain, pre-existing health conditions, or recovering from injuries may be accustomed to feeling some level of tenderness or aches for longer periods than others.

“In general, despite starting with some initial discomfort, research finds that over time receiving massage has been found to significantly reduce sensitivity to touch.” -NCBI

If you experience excruciating pain and immediate swelling after getting a massage, it’s recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Frequency of Massages

If you’re a newcomer to getting massages, too much too soon may lead to more pain and soreness than expected. It’s crucial not to overwhelm your muscles by getting too many massages in a short amount of time or scheduling longer-than-usual sessions if you’re new to the experience.

Also, getting regular massages at least once every few weeks can help build up muscle memory and put less strain on your ligaments each time they get worked out. Your body gets used to the pressure over time, reducing post-massage soreness.

“The best advice is to familiarize yourself with massage slowly” -Healthline

Body Areas Targeted

Different parts of the body respond differently to massage due to differences in sensitivity, muscle structure, or their function in everyday movements. For example, deep tissue massages done on calves might feel more painful compared to massages delivered onto normally tense shoulder areas because those parts are used more frequently during physical activities.

If individuals request extra attention towards certain areas of tension and tightness while ignoring milder regions, the former may cause unexpected soreness after the effect of the initial relaxation has passed.

“Muscles that have been overstretched or previously torn will naturally be tighter, but it’s just as important to focus care on surrounding tissues.” -MassageMag

An experienced masseuse would commonly focus on giving equal attention to different parts of your body, depending upon the degree of tightness involved without overdoing one specific area than others.

Ways To Alleviate Post-Massage Soreness

Stretching and Yoga

If you are feeling sore after a massage, stretching and yoga can be great ways to help alleviate the discomfort.

According to certified personal trainer and wellness coach Sherry Pagoto, “yoga for athletes can serve as an injury-prevention tool, minimizing imbalances in range of motion and flexibility.”

Additionally, stretching after a massage can help loosen up your muscles even more. It’s important to stretch gently and not push yourself too hard, especially if you’re already experiencing soreness.

  • Hamstring stretch – sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, reach towards your toes.
  • Calf stretch – stand facing a wall, place one foot behind you with heel flat on ground, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the calf.
  • Quad stretch – standing tall, grab your ankle with your hand and bring it towards your glutes while keeping your knees together.

Heat and Cold Therapy

A hot bath or a heating pad can do wonders for post-massage soreness. Heat therapy helps increase circulation and relaxes tight muscles.

Cold therapy, such as icing the affected area, is also helpful for reducing inflammation. According to Dr. Susan Yackvona, DPT, “cold reduces swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area where cold is applied. This promotes healing and decreases pain.”

You can alternate between heat and cold therapy to get maximum results. Start with 15 minutes of heat followed by 15 minutes of cold, repeating this process several times.

“Therapeutic use of heat and cold can be a relatively cheap and simple self-care strategy that can reduce pain, inflammation, and disability due to muscle soreness or other soft tissue injuries.” -Ezra Cohen, MD

It’s important to note that if the soreness persists for more than a few days, it may be wise to consult with your massage therapist or doctor. In some cases, post-massage soreness can indicate a more serious underlying issue such as an injury or infection.

Post-massage soreness is normal and expected in most cases. However, there are ways to alleviate the discomfort through stretching, yoga, and heat/cold therapy. As always, listen to your body and seek professional medical advice if needed.

When To Seek Medical Attention For Post-Massage Soreness

Massage therapy has many benefits, including reducing stress, alleviating pain, increasing flexibility, and improving circulation. However, it is normal to experience some muscle soreness after a massage session.

The soreness can be an indication that the muscles have been worked on and are healing, but sometimes the discomfort might indicate something more serious. It is essential to know when post-massage soreness could be a cause for concern. Here are some signs to look out for:

Persistent Pain or Swelling

A massage usually works by applying direct pressure to specific areas of the body, kneading, and squeezing muscles. This process causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers that heal with time, leading to reduced levels of inflammation and increased blood flow to the area.

If the soreness persists or continues to worsen over several days rather than easing up, this could be a red flag that something is not right. The same applies if you notice swelling around the affected areas or experience sharp pains or shooting sensations even at rest.

If any of these symptoms persist for a few days without improvement, it would be prudent to seek medical attention from your physician or request another professional opinion from a physical therapist or licensed masseuse to rule out any injuries.

Inability to Move or Function Normally

Sometimes, the intensity of a deep tissue massage may be too much for individuals with underlying conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, or fibromyalgia. In such cases, excessive pressure could trigger flare-ups that lead to decreased mobility or loss of function altogether.

Furthermore, some people may experience sudden dizziness, weakness, or nausea following a massage due to drop-in blood pressure. These symptoms are common but usually last for a short time before subsiding.

If, however, the symptoms persist or become more severe, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention. This would help determine if any underlying conditions aggravated by the massage might be responsible and if further action needs to be taken to manage such conditions.

Signs of Infection

The chances of developing an infection post-massage are very slim, thanks to sanitization measures that most therapists follow before each session. Nevertheless, it is still possible to contract infections through open wounds, cuts, or bruises on your skin during the massage therapy process.

If you notice redness, heat, or swelling around the affected areas, coupled with fever, muscle weakness, chills, or vomiting, this could indicate a secondary bacterial or fungal skin infection.

“A professional masseuse should always use freshly laundered linens and disinfect equipment between customers to avoid cases of cross-contamination. However, as a client, some basic rules like showering before a massage, avoiding shaving just before your appointment, and informing your therapist about any open wounds or injuries can also reduce your risk of getting infected.” – Stephen Griffith ND.

Serious infections can lead to complications and other unpleasant symptoms and require prompt treatment from healthcare professionals like dermatologists or infectious disease specialists to recover fully.

Mild soreness lasting for up to 24 – 48 hours after a massage is normal and poses no harm. However, if the pain persists, worsens, becomes unbearable, or accompanied by any unusual symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention right away.

“Remember that communication is crucial when working with a massage therapist; they need to know what kind of pressure you prefer and whether you have any existing health issues that may affect how they treat you.” – Meghan Rabbitt

Also, if you experience any swelling or tenderness in a particular area, avoid the use of hot tubs, steam rooms, or saunas to reduce further inflammation. Instead, rest, take pain relief medication as prescribed by your healthcare professional and drink plenty of fluids while observing symptoms.

  • If you feel too much pressure during a massage session, ask your therapist to adjust accordingly and work within your limits.
  • Avoid getting massages when you have an open wound or ulcer on your skin surface this could expose bacterial infections into the body
  • If you are experiencing another health condition besides soreness, consult with your doctor first before booking for a massage to avoid complications

Preventing Post-Massage Soreness With Proper Communication

Many people seek the benefits of massage therapy to relieve tension, reduce pain, and promote relaxation. However, some may experience soreness after a session, which can be uncomfortable and discouraging. So is it normal to be sore after a massage? The answer is yes, but there are ways to minimize or avoid post-massage soreness through proper communication with your therapist.

Discussing Pain Tolerance and Expectations

Pain tolerance varies from person to person, and what feels therapeutic for one individual may cause discomfort for another. For this reason, it’s essential to communicate your pain tolerance level and expectations before the massage begins. Let your therapist know if you prefer light, moderate, or deep pressure, and don’t hesitate to speak up during the session if the pressure becomes too intense or uncomfortable.

“It’s crucial to tailor each massage session to an individual’s unique needs, including their preferences for pressure and areas of focus,” says licensed massage therapist Michele Halloran. “By communicating openly, clients can receive a more comfortable and effective massage experience.”

Your therapist should also ask about any sensitive or painful areas that require special attention or caution. This information will help them adjust their technique and achieve better results without causing additional soreness.

Communicating Feedback During the Massage

Effective communication doesn’t end once the massage starts. You should feel free to provide feedback throughout the session and let your therapist know if any adjustments need to be made. For example, if the therapist’s hands are too cold or hot, you could request temperature changes. If certain techniques feel good or bad, say so. Remember, the therapist cannot read your mind; they rely on your input to customize the treatment according to your needs.

“The best massage therapist is the one who listens to and addresses your concerns,” comments licensed massage therapist Heather Stillufsen.

Another way to encourage good communication during a massage is by focusing on deep breathing, which helps calm your mind and relax your muscles. When you’re relaxed, you’ll be more aware of how your body feels, making it easier to communicate with your therapist.

Mentioning Any Preexisting Conditions or Injuries

If you have any preexisting medical conditions or injuries, let your therapist know before the session. They will want to adjust their approach accordingly to avoid exacerbating these areas. Some conditions that may impact the massage include pregnancy, injuries or surgeries, arthritis, varicose veins, and skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

“It’s always better for clients to err on the side of caution when it comes to their health,” notes licensed massage therapist Emily Whitaker. “We can work around most issues as long as we know about them beforehand.”

Remember, honest and open communication between you and your therapist is key to achieving optimal results and reducing soreness after a massage. By communicating your needs, expectations, feedback, and medical history, you and your therapist can develop an effective treatment plan together.

It’s normal to experience some soreness after a massage, especially if it’s your first time or you’ve been experiencing tension buildup in your muscles. However, proper communication with your therapist can help prevent excessive soreness and promote faster recovery. Don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself during the massage. Your therapist is there to support your wellness journey, so trust in their expertise and guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do some people feel sore after a massage?

Some people can feel sore after a massage because the massage therapist may have applied deep pressure or worked on areas of the body that were tight or knotted. This can cause minor muscle inflammation and soreness. Additionally, if a person is dehydrated, it can intensify muscle soreness after a massage.

Is it normal to feel more sore the day after a massage?

It is common to feel more sore the day after a massage. This is because the massage therapist may have loosened up tight muscles, and the muscle fibers may have been stretched or strained during the process. This can cause minor inflammation and muscle soreness. However, the soreness should subside within a few days.

What can cause soreness after a massage?

Soreness after a massage can be caused by various factors, including deep pressure applied to tight muscles, stretching and manipulating muscle fibers, dehydration, and inflammation. Additionally, if a person has an underlying medical condition such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, it can cause muscle soreness after a massage.

How long should soreness last after a massage?

Soreness after a massage can last for a few hours to a few days. It depends on the intensity of the massage, the areas of the body worked on, and the person’s overall health. However, if the soreness persists beyond a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention.

Can soreness after a massage be prevented?

While soreness after a massage cannot always be prevented, there are a few things that can be done to minimize it. Staying hydrated before and after a massage can help reduce muscle soreness. Additionally, communicating with the massage therapist about the desired pressure and areas of focus can help avoid excessive soreness after the massage.

When should you seek medical attention for soreness after a massage?

If the muscle soreness after a massage persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, redness, or fever, it is important to seek medical attention. Additionally, if a person has an underlying medical condition, it is best to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure that the massage is not exacerbating any existing conditions.

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