Should a Good Massage Cause Pain?


As the owner of a popular massage and wellness center I am asked many questions about what is “right or wrong” about massage, acupuncture and bodywork in general. Should I feel this way or that? What is such and such good for? And many other questions.

The most frequently asked question is, “Does it or should it hurt?”

Many people believe that if the massage doesn’t hurt its not providing you with any therapeutic benefits. Others feel that massage should never hurt and that being sore after a massage is bad. It is my belief that both of these premises are false.

First I would like to define “hurt”.

Massage therapists are trained to help alleviate soft tissue problems. Sometimes this process can be uncomfortable depending on many factors. One important consideration is if there is an injury to the tissue in question. Or is there a chronic repetitive movement pattern that is simply over working and fatiguing the muscles causing pain.

No matter what the issue is, the discomfort that is felt by the client or the “hurt” should be an experience that you can breathe through and relax.

For example, on a pain scale of 1-10 (ten being excruciating) the “hurt” or pain that you feel from the massage should never be more then a 7 or 8. You should be able to take a deep breath and relax with the pressure helping the muscle to also relax and release the spasm. If you find yourself tensing, or unable to take a breath then the pressure is too much and you should ask the therapist to lighten up if they have not already done so.

People often wonder if they should be sore after a massage. Quick answer is sometimes. It is important to note that the soreness should not be acute pain, but more like the discomfort from a good work out or a hard day’s work.

When you get a deep tissue massage, the therapist is separating muscle layers, milking metabolic waste out from between the layers and sometimes breaking up adhesions or scar tissue. These types of sessions may leave you sore, but then after 1-2 days (on rare occasions 3 days) you should feel great and that problem area should feel much better. You may see that you have an increase in your range of motion, reduction of pain or increased muscle stamina, depending of course on what the problem was in the first place. Massage therapy is like dancing on the edge of the good pain and the bad at times, it is a very thin line.