The idea of “no pain, no gain” doesn’t really apply to massage therapy. Certain types of massage can cause more discomfort (also known as therapeutic pain) than others due to the intense nature of techniques (as with Deep Tissue Massage), if the client has a particularly difficult spot to work out, or if they haven’t had body work done in a while. Sometimes more pressure is required, but it should never be intolerable or be more than what you can comfortably breathe through.
There is a fine line between a client’s comfort level and actual pain – often times, clients will describe the feeling as a “good hurt” as the previous aches and pains are being massaged away. A skilled and experienced massage therapist should work with their clients to stay on the comfort side of that line rather than cross over into something that leaves the client with more pain and soreness than they came in with.
As a general rule of thumb, a pain scale from 1-10 is a helpful tool when it comes to massage therapy. A 3-6 signify a therapeutic range of discomfort that is effective for offering relief. A 1, or no pain, may be what a client is looking for, as even light massage can do wonders for stress relief and relaxation. Anything higher than a 6 may result in a painful sensation that would call for the technique to be modified. Remember, each client has a different idea of pain – a 3 on the scale for one client may be a 7 for another, so communication during the massage is crucial.
Clients look for massage for different reasons. A client who comes in with knots, ongoing pain, or for a reoccurring injury massage can expect to be a bit more uncomfortable than a client who wants to feel relaxed and de-stressed. The word ‘uncomfortable’ is key; massage shouldn’t necessarily be painful, but depending on the problem a certain level of discomfort is common and completely fine. The massage therapist must have good communication with the client to determine the reason they are seeking out massage, and take into consideration their comfort level at all times during the massage to avoid pain and prevent post-massage soreness.