Wait a Second: Should Your Massage Actually Hurt?

The soothing sounds of a creek are flowing in the background. Essential oils are wafting into your nose, transporting you to a meadow or magical forest. The room is dimly lit, and you wait in anticipation. That’s right: It’s massage time baby. Your hour or so to physically and emotionally unwind and drift into a state of pure, uninterrupted peace is finally here. Um, so: Why the heck does it hurt so much?

Between working out, sitting at a desk, and traveling, your body often doesn't get the proper stretching and downtime it needs to recover. So, it punishes you by tightening up and giving you even more issues to deal with. It's natural to want to feel your muscles loosen and the tension in your body melt away, but it begs the question: How much pain is too much?

“It should be a ‘hurt so good’ feeling, not ‘please stop that.'”

Obviously, if you're in pain every time you get a massage, there could be something deeper going on that you should check out with a doctor. Otherwise, massage therapist Kathleen Mortimer believes that feeling uncomfortable at times is normal and simply means that your muscles are very tight; however, there's definitely a difference between good and bad pain on the massage table. “If it’s hurting, and you're holding your breath, it's way too much pressure for you,” Mortimer says. “It should be a ‘hurt so good’ feeling, rather than ‘please stop that.'”

Some massage therapists will adjust their pressure according to changes in the subject’s body language, but sometimes it's up to you to say something if you're experiencing major discomfort during a session. You want to have an open and honest dialogue with your massage therapist, not only so that you can reap maximum benefits, but also so that they can become more familiar with your body to help you best relax.

“When I press on something, see breathing change, and ask if it's okay, people usually respond that it feels good,” Mortimer says. “It should never be so uncomfortable that you’re holding your breath because then it is actually counterproductive.”

Everyone has different pain thresholds and different perceptions of physical pain. Telling your massage therapist that something feels off or you're experiencing unusual amounts of pain doesn’t make you a wimp, it actually puts you in a position to reap big benefits all while keeping it chill during your appointment. Now back to regularly scheduled meadow sounds.

You can learn a lot about your body from a deep tissue massage. Here's what one W+G writer learned about her back pain. A massage can be a great way to connect on a deeper level with your SO. Follow these tips to giving the best massage at home

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