Why do I feel stiff and sore after a massage?
As counter intuitive as it sounds it is perfectly normal to feel a little tender and bruised following a deep tissue massage. You may even wonder if you did a couple of dumbbell routines during the night! You may even doubt the skills of your therapist as you wonder why your body feels like its been through the mill.
Having a firm, deep massage is equivalent to a tough workout. Not only the muscles but also the fibres that line the muscles (fascia) have been worked on to loosen them up, increase blood flow to the whole area and return muscle groups to a healthy, pain-free, working condition. And it takes some time to recover but its worth it!
The therapist is working on groups of muscles and surrounding supportive muscles that may have become tight and strained or even twisted - knotted areas. If the muscles are left in this state it could potentially lead to serious injury, loss of function, complications and chronic pain. To return the muscles to their normal resting length and position and to assist the body to regain good posture, the therapist will expertly work within your comfort zone to stretch and lengthen these groups and break up any knotted areas, possibly causing tiny micro tears in the muscles along the way. This is a normal function of massage, and while it leads to more blood flow and healing to that area, it can also lead to tenderness the following day that can last up to 72hrs following a massage. If your discomfort exceeds the tenderness you felt before the massage then communicate that to your therapist before your next appointment. The feedback will help them taylor the session to your level of need. They may then go slower or use different techniques to achieve the same result.
Successful massage is usually the result of good ongoing communication between therapist and client.
TIPS for getting the best and recovering well from a deep tissue massage:
Be sure to try and relax. This can be harder then you think especially when there is an expectation of pain and requires some serious concentration to keep those muscles from tensing up.
Keep hydrated before the day of your massage and after, if you're dehydrated your muscle tissue will not be as pliable, and you will feel more soreness afterwards.
Don't be afraid to let the therapist know how comfortable you are with the pressure they are using, it helps them to pace the depth of pressure as they warm the area up before treating. Massage should always be preformed within your comfort level and the therapist will only know this if you tell them.
If you've had treatment for repetitive strain injury, applying ice to the worked on area will help recover it faster.
A warm bath with Epsom salts is very rejuvenating to muscles and who doesn't enjoy a bath bomb?
Do book in for a second therapy session. One usually isn't enough to get the muscles back into top condition if a deep tissue massage was required in the first place.
As your body adjusts to massage and your muscles start to respond to the techniques of returning them to a normal resting length, the discomfort and tenderness the next day will lessen.