I can’t speak to the benefits of “no pain no gain” in relation to sports or weight training, but I can tell you that it doesn’t hold water when it comes to massage. That’s not to say that massage might never be uncomfortable, but it should never be downright painful.
For our purposes today, I’m going to define pain as eliciting one or more of these responses:
Pain during a massage could be a sign that your therapist might be fighting your body instead of working with it. This can include working too quickly on an area, working too deeply, or trying to force their way into protected tissue.
Pain is often a sign that something’s wrong. The only protection a muscle has to pain is to contract. When a muscle is trying to protect itself and someone else is trying to get that same muscle to “release” microtears can be created in the muscle. Ouch!
As I said, the only thing a muscle in pain can do is contract, and that’s counter to the end goal of a massage session, which is to release or relax muscles that are causing pain. So, if you feel pain from something your massage therapist is doing, please speak up. If you want less pressure, tell them. If you thought the last massage felt fine, but then couldn’t walk for 2 days afterward, tell your therapist (if not by phone, email, or text, then at your next appointment) so they can alter the way they work on you so you don’t have pain.
Remember, too, that your massage therapist is only as human as you are. So… if you tell them what they’re doing is painful and they don’t alter the pressure, speed or location, reword your statement and ask them to slow down, lighten up, or move on to somewhere else. A good massage therapist will be happy to comply. A better therapist will ask questions about the pain to better understand what may have caused it.