Elanor Sung, LMT
Massage Myth: No Pain, No Gain
This is something I hear all the time: "Deep Tissue should hurt." This is simply not true. While there are some massage modalities that are pretty intense, they are not common and they are used for specific outcomes.
In general, massage should feel good and help you to get out of pain.
When you are in pain, you enter this pain spiral. Pain > guarding of the area that is in pain > greater muscle tension > more pain and so on. Massage can help stop that pain cycle. But it doesn't need to hurt to help.
In my opinion, deep tissue massage should hurt, but still feel good. If I go beyond that point, I am just increasing that pain cycle, which doesn't benefit anybody.
Massage doesn't have to hurt to be effective. Gentle massage can even be MORE effective, depending on the goals and the desired outcome of the massage. When a massage just feels good, no matter the pressure, it signals your body's "fight, flight or freeze" (sympathetic) nervous system to calm down and allows the "rest and digest" (parasympathetic) nervous system to take over. Healing and recovery are more effective during times of rest, and being in pain doesn't allow that sympathetic nervous system to turn off.
There are some exceptions to this rule (specifically for my practice):
If you are coming in for Medical Massage because you are recovering from surgery or an injury, there may be some points where it does just hurt. This is the exception to the rule, and in this case, we will discuss what I am doing, the purpose and I will always stop and approach it differently if it is too uncomfortable. Communication is key in any massage session, but especially in a rehabilitation/medical massage.