My Massage Therapist Hurt Me

It’s 4:00 in the morning. After tossing and turning all night, I’ve decided to just get up. My hips ache. My shoulder isn’t working right. My low back feels like someone took a brick to it. Hell, I even feel a little sick.

As some of you may know, I’m a massage therapist of 8 years. I’ve written rants about how massage shouldn’t hurt, and about how massage therapists who try to “fix” you are dumb. Yet there I lay, teeth gritted, as I got slowly tenderized. To be honest, I feel kind of embarrassed about letting it happen. I should have spoken up more. Hell, I should have stopped the massage. Sad thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve been through this.

“I Guess It’s Supposed to Feel This Way”

Being a patient is a scary thing. You’re in a room with an expert, they’ve got years of practiced dialogue about how you should be treated and why, and all you’ve got is a vague sense of what’s wrong. When they say, with supreme confidence, that “you need this,” who are you to argue?

Over my years of psychiatric and psychological care, I’ve been told I have all sorts of things wrong with me.  When my anxiety created physical symptoms (something called somatization), I was bounced from test to test, medication to medication, trying to solve illusory problems. That was kind of pricey. And stressful.

Hell, a few years ago I saw a psychiatrist who, upon hearing about my obsessive-compulsive symptoms, wanted to get me tested for Lyme disease and mono. She was convinced that all mental illness was caused by germs, and she delivered this with the same confidence that one usually reserves for predicting the sunrise.

When healthcare practitioners talk, we’ve been conditioned to listen. Over the years I’ve developed a healthy skepticism, but that didn’t help me yesterday.

“Am I… Am I Supposed to Take Off My Underpants?”

Being a patient is scary, but being a massage client can be downright intimidating. A few minutes of chatting (if you’re lucky), and then it’s naked time. Hopefully your massage therapist told you how undressed to get, and where exactly she/he would like you to be, and how much time you have. If not, the MT leaves, and you get your first crisis of the session.

Yes, despite my years in this business, I still wonder about how naked to get. Would she be more comfortable if I left my boxers on? Is he good enough at draping to work on my hips without seeing my butt crack? Dear lord, what if she sees the outline of my wang? Some massage therapists can put me completely at ease, while others would prefer to leave everything to your imagination.

So, you’ve made the crucial underpants decision, you’re under the cover, face in a dark little cave, and your MT returns. Maybe she asks about your comfort, maybe she doesn’t. Maybe he places his hands on you without saying a word. Maybe the pressure is too much.

Dear Massage Therapists,

Imagine me, the massage client. I’m bare-ass, I’ve got my face down in a claustrophobic tunnel, and you put your hands on me like you own the place. At what point do I get to… you know… communicate? You are the expert in the room, you’re the one with practiced phrases and advanced knowledge, and you’ve made it apparent that you’re none too concerned with dialogue.

At what point do I speak up? Is it when you dig a thumb tip into my shoulder and tell me to breathe, or should I wait until the pressure really starts hurting? Is it when you say “relax” as I tense up? Am I allowed to say “this is okay now, but earlier it was kind of rough?” I can guarantee you that your client doesn’t know.

Or, how about this chestnut: “How’s the pressure?” Well done. Surely you’ve done your due diligence! By asking “how’s the pressure?” and waiting for my inevitable “fine,” you’ve discovered everything you need to know about how your touch is affecting me physically and emotionally. You are a master communicator.

Not really. Step up your shit. Don’t shift the blame for a failure to communicate onto your client; the onus is on you. Being a massage client can be intimidating, and you’re not taking that into account.

Dear Massage Clients,

It ain’t supposed to hurt. It’s not supposed to be confusing or intimidating. Properly handled, massage can be an incredible congress of contact and motion, of nonverbal communication and education. My first massage was so great, I decided right then that it had to be a part of my life.

If your massage therapist has their head on straight, it will be made abundantly clear that you have the power in the relationship. You can alter the pressure at any time, speak up at any time, and even ask for changes in technique. You can end the massage if it’s not your bag.

You, not your massage therapist, are the expert on your body. You’ve been inhabiting it for decades, where your MT has seen the outside for a few minutes. You know if something’s not right, if it’s good pain or bad pain, or if an area is becoming too sensitive to receive more work. We’ve got our fallible sense of touch and preconceived notions; you’ve got first-hand knowledge.

All that said, I can’t blame you if you fail to communicate. I can’t say “well you should have spoken up!” because I know that it’s not always that easy. Sometimes the MT has moved on from the painful area already, or it’s an ambiguous “it might be too much, but I don’t know for sure…” situation. Or it just plain hurts, and you’re convinced that they know best.

Communication Above All Else

I’d like for something new to happen in the massage world. I’d like for clients, upon finding that their massage therapist is an incompetent communicator, to leave before the first contact. It’s going to be a suboptimal experience, the therapist will fail to find that “just right” pressure, and you might get hurt.

Yes, I’m telling you that it’s not up to you to lead the conversation. We expect doctors, nurses, and counselors to be decent communicators by default. They need to establish rapport, have a certain bedside manner, and they need to be able to allay certain fears. If they don’t have this, you go elsewhere and, hopefully, leave a crappy review online.

Why are massage therapists exempt?

A Word on Massage Hangovers

If you search for “flu-like symptoms after massage” on Google, you’ll find plenty of message board postings of people who feel like hell after a massage that was too deep. You’ll also find scores of massage sites telling you that you’re dealing with “toxins” that have been flushed out, or that you’re experiencing a “healing crisis.” Orwell would be impressed.

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Photo credit: Ryan Weisgerber

No. No no no. The “toxins” thing is just a popular meme among massage therapists because we think that we actually stimulate circulation more than a set of jumping jacks would. The body isn’t full of pockets of toxins just waiting to be freed (there are exceptions, like in bone and adipose tissue, none of which massage can affect). The body is actually quite adept at getting rid of cellular waste and pumping in fresh nutrients.

A note on the lactic acid thing: Ever do push-ups until your arms failed because of that dreadful burning sensation? That’s from the metabolism of lactic acid. Notice how you can do another set of push-ups 30 seconds later? That’s how swiftly the exchange of nutrients and wastes happens. Yes, this means that the “flushing lactic acid” thing is another massage myth.

Aside: If a massage therapist ever tells you that they’re “busting up lactic acid crystals,” either go to the doctor (you have a metabolic disorder) or never go back to that MT (they’re full of shit). And yes, this means that the “drink a lot of water” spiel is based on bad science.

So, what’s really happening during a massage hangover? The same thing that causes muscle soreness and fatigue the day after you work out. The same thing that makes you feel so shitty when you get the flu, or get hit by a truck. Oh, and it’s what causes actual hangovers to feel so bad: inflammation. This is the body’s standard, non-specific response to any insult.

So, someone decides to painfully shove their fists, thumbs, and elbows into your upper back for 45 minutes before finally moving on. You’ve just gotten your ass kicked, very slowly. That malaise and achiness you feel the next day could be a “healing crisis,” where it really means that you’re getting better and healing and sunshine and rainbows will be exploding out of your chest.

Or, as Occam’s razor might dictate, you just got served, and you need a day or two to recover from the beating.

A Last Word For Prospective Clients

You guys, massage is great. Just don’t let anyone convince you that pain does anything other than ramp up your sensitivity to pain. Yes, even if they mention sciency sounding stuff like metabolic wastes. Yes, even if they claim it’s due to a rebalancing of your energies. It’s hogwash that they heard from all the massage therapists who hurt them.

Ever had a massage therapist completely ignore your pain threshold? Think I’m full of something other than proinflammatory chemicals? Vent your spleen in the comments!

48 thoughts on “My Massage Therapist Hurt Me

  1. I hope you feel better soon. That is pretty bad. 🙁

    I’m not a masseuse, but as someone who’s had massage for a bad back since I was a child, I’m always trying to convince people it’s good self-care. So I feel pretty shitty reading about poor communication too. 😛 I feel lucky I’ve always had received good communication, if not always the best massage for me.

    I’m really sad that my MT is moving in a month. This article has made me all nervous again about finding someone new, haha! I’m afraid I just can’t get past liking deep, painful massage, but I have a high pain threshold and I’ve always found it beneficial – used where needed. I’ve only once found a massage overall too painful, and experienced that bruised feeling. Not fun.

    1. Oh man, that stinks about your MT leaving! I wish there was a good way of helping you find a new one… but it’s a crap shoot. Really, the best proxy is years of experience: If they haven’t washed out after 2 years, they’re probably alright. Maybe. Unless they suck.

      Oh, and if you like a deep-as-hell massage, more power to you. I’ve got clients who like incredibly deep work, and I give it to them! Like I said, they know their bodies better than I do. It’s quite a workout though…

      And thank you for your concern, I’m much better now 🙂 Sleep helped, as did ranting.

    2. Ask who your massage therapist goes to. (Hopefully they get regular massage too!) Chances are s/he likes to receive the same type of massage s/he gives.

  2. Just because some pain is good pain, doesn’t mean more pain is better.

    I am a massage therapist and I strongly feel it is important to address the “problem area’s” which are causing the pain and there is going to be some tenderness involved DURING THE TREATMENT, not necessarily after. That being said it is important that the patient only accepts enough discomfort where they are still able to stay relaxed, no changes in breathing, no scrunching up your face.

    The only way to do this is with lots of communication and often. And yes, it is up to the therapist to get the answers we need to do our job, we are the experts.

    As for pain after a treatment, that should only happen when you are working through, and yes, breaking down, old scar tissue, to improve mobility and function.

    1. Yes! Tracking the client is vital, and I feel like it’s either not taught, or it’s just ignored by some therapists. If I’m in a tender area, you better believe my eyes are glued to my client’s face.

      And I do agree about some painful treatments being potentially beneficial (surgical post-care, etc) as long as the long-term is kept firmly in view. Thanks for the excellent comment, Kristen!

      1. I had a massage yesterday, the second of two with the same MT. I went back even though the first massage hurt worse than any I’d ever had, because he said that it had to hurt to gain relief. and that the only way I’d get better is to have a massage once a week. I was in far worse shape the week following his first massage, so assumed he was right and it was because I needed another massage.
        At second appointment, I explained how much pain I was in currently in. He told me if he performed another deep tissue massage it would hurt. I told him that I was currently in so much pain, that I would tolerate more if he thought it would help me in the end. He said a deep tissue massage heals.

        So… during the massage I was flinching and my muscles were twitching in pain. I told him when it was very painful and he said that it was my fault it hurt so much because I was obviously flinching and tensing up which made is job harder and that he had to massage deeper (I heard more painfully) because I was so tense during the massage. He stopped briefly and demanded that I should relax or it was going to keep hurting worse. How on earth can I keep my face from contorting or muscles flinching to the horrible pain? Those reactions are involuntary. Also, it is nearly impossible to relax when commanded to do so and when being scolded for being too tense. I felt like a failure and continued to endure the “abuse”. I also felt stressed because during some of his stretches, even though he had tucked the sheet, it was dark and I couldn’t tell how exposed I may or may not have been. The stretching was very awkward and not at all relaxing.

        Today I feel worse than when I went in and am sore in new places. The pain is unbearable. I enjoy exercising, particularly yoga. After the massage, he ran through a list of all my muscles which were extremely tight or damaged (pretty much every muscle in my body) and told me to stop doing whatever it was I was doing to cause the muscle stress. I thought most MT supported yoga as valuable exercise. Prior to the massage, I told him what exercises I had been doing: Body Pump weight training, long distance cycling, and yoga.
        I thought I needed to return to this painful prescription, but after reading your post, I think HE should be held responsible and upon seeing my face flinch and muscles twitch in pain, reassessed HIS methods instead of scolding me to “relax or this will hurt even worse.” This day spa is one of the most expensive in my area, so I assumed the people working were well trained. What is your take on this experience?

        1. This makes me so sad! Therapists like him shouldn’t have graduated from massage school 🙁 I am a massage therapist, and I do like to work “correctively,” focusing on antagonist groups of muscles that contribute to structural dysfunction and pain. I work slowly, and within the patients threshold, and combining a lot of relaxing effleurage to support the muscle I just “beat up.” When I get a client that comes back telling me that they hurt after their massage, or that they are still hurting, I give them a relaxing, rejuvenating massage to support the muscles recovery. My clients are happy and always come back because I give them real results they can both feel and see. 🙂

  3. This article was fabulous! Tons of really great info to stop and think about, both as a therapist and client. Thank you for writing this!

  4. Absolutely! I have great reverence for my clients putting themselves in a very vulnerable position & trusting me with their bodies! I tell my clients in their first session that I have a fairly good idea of how deep I need to be, and if at any time they need more pressure or less, to please let me know – it is their body & I am not feeling what they are feeling! This post is a great reminder to keep the lines of communication open.

    1. Kristen, I love the way you put it: reverence. They’re making a huge sacrifice of control, and that is certainly something to treat tenderly, and to treat well. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  5. Also, apparently when your massage therapist asks you if a certain body part has been injured, you should speak up. In my ignorant defense, I considered an injury to be a broken bone or maybe a dislocation. But it turns out, an injury actually means any sort of “trauma”? Whatever all that encompasses. Aaannnd now I haven’t been able to move my wrist since Friday. (This is especially helpful when you spend eight hours a day at a computer.) But you know, it really didn’t hurt that bad during the massage. Okay, maybe it did a little. *sigh* Maybe sometimes these things just happen.

    I sincerely hope you’ve recovered from your bad experience. Maybe even gotten a GOOD massage to erase the bad one? If not, you should 🙂

    1. Let me guess, you complained of wrist problems, so they proceeded to jam their fingers in the joint for ten minutes? Argh! Make sure to ice and wrap your wrist (let me know if you need tips for either of these). If you weren’t injured before, you sure as hell are now.

      Breathing deeply… okay. All better. Your comment makes another good point: Healthcare professionals need to realize that what we mean and what the clients understand are two different things. Even things like “pressure” and “pain” mean different things to every individual.

      Thanks for the illustrative comment, April! I just wish that it hadn’t involved you being, you know, crippled for a week. And no, no good massages since, but a man can dream 🙂

      1. How did you know! 😉 Was it only ten minutes? It felt like longer. It also felt like my bones were grinding together, which is an oddly disgusting sensation. I’ve been icing, but I hadn’t thought of wrapping it. Thanks! Now go schedule yourself a massage lol. It’s Valentine’s Day – It’s what people do.

    2. April, is that even possible to erase what a bad MT has done to you, with another massage? 😮 Please tell me this is true!!!
      Literally feel…like I can’t MOVE and it has been over 75 days, since having it done!! Every inch of my body is in pain, where it hurts to even move my fingers. What did this MT do to me, by burrowing her elbow into my herniated back?!?! Burning, aching, joints feel dislocated and missing even and she knew of the damage I had. :/
      My elbows in particular, are in horrible pain, where I dread waking in the morning it is so horrific!! The only somewhat relief is when I rub Wintergreen, Basil and almond oil on it…but, that is ONLY temporary relief and not total relief. This is driving me crazy that I can’t move. Feels like I am 10x worse, than I was before the massage. >:o

  6. You bring up good points about massage therapists and the medical profession as a whole. It’s tricky to learn to communicate well and sometimes it’s a matter of personality preferences and other variables that are less controllable.

    While I’ve had a number of unique health problems my whole life, I’ve managed to live rather functionally until a car accident left me with 4 herniated discs, neurological pain and a host of other issues. I’ve always enjoyed deep tissue and MFR and considered a massage good when I was exhausted afterwards because my physical tension was finally worked out. I have been very picky about the massage therapists that I allow to work on me because it’s a vulnerable time, as you described. I bought into the ideas that there were toxins being flushed and I’m honestly still undecided on that because my body reacts differently than it’s “supposed to”. In either case, I can’t enjoy deep tissue and massage hangovers anymore.

    Rather suddenly, I am confused not only by my body, but also by how to approach massages. I can’t have deep tissue because my body reacts suddenly and without warning, so it is often too late when I discover that any therapy was too overwhelming for my body. I switched massages therapists because Rose Marie wasn’t comfortable working on my herniated discs, but I really thought I’d had a lot of relief from her before we realized my discs here herniated. So I have been getting massages from another massage therapist who specializes on clients with herniated discs. She seems good, but I feel an odd disconnect with her and I don’t know if it’s me or her. She asks all the right questions and makes sure she’s not going too deep, but I guess I like to small talk while I get a massage because it allows me to not focus so deeply on my constantly pained body. Rose Marie and my favorite MT are good about talking to me about unrelated issues in a way that allows me to detach and relax. This is counter-intuitive to me because I typically hate small talk and refuse to do it. But I find it relaxes my overactive mind in the right setting, much like you’ve discussed in prior posts about mindfulness for anxiety.

    I appreciate your blog and info. You give validation and supporting documentation to dispel myths. Also, I find your sarcasm and self deprecating style hilarious.

    1. Alex, you’ve basically encapsulated everything that goes into a massage relationship perfectly. What to do when you’ve got a great therapeutic bond but subpar results? How do you deal with “good enough” massage that still isn’t right? How do you deal with the messages your body is sending you when there’s no handbook for it?

      If I may give my opinion, your favorite MT needs to get over her fear of herniated discs. Lots of people have them, many have them and are undiagnosed, they tend to spontaneously heal, and… there’s no way that we can make them worse, unless we’re doing jiu jitsu moves on the table. If you talk to her, tell her that a random internet massage therapist tells her to dig in!

      As for your new one, it might be time to roam a bit and try a few other therapists. Massage is excellent for low back pain, but there’s so much more to massage than pain relief.

      Thank you for the kind words, I hope to see you around!

  7. Really glad I stumbled upon this blog. I couldn’t agree more with you & I think if people manage to find a good massage therapist they’re worth their weight in gold.
    There’s a great skill in learning when to use more & when to use less pressure & that takes many years to hone.
    Sadly, I think there’s still a lot of therapist out there using way too much pressure at times & causing un-necessary tissue damage, pain & bruising.
    I wonder how much of this is also due to some of the research out there which states that increased pressures can lead to increased fibroblast activity.

    1. Hi Malcolm! I agree that finding that “just right” massage therapist is a truly profound experience. I kind of feel sad for people who settle for “okay” massages, because there’s a whole world of styles out there.

      That’s an interesting point about the fibroblast research. I’m hoping that anyone savvy enough to dig into the literature will realize that fibroblast activity is also upregulated by tissue damage!

      Great comment, I hope to see you around!

  8. That was a great article! People often come to me because they hear I have a firmer touch. I tend to communicate pretty well ( I think ) because I don’t like to waste clients time or money on areas that are not causing them “discomfort “. What I find difficult is, I don’t want to “bother” them too much with a million questions if they don’t seem responsive. It’s such a fine line! It can be very frustrating when clients don’t speak up. I always tell them it’s not going to hurt my feelings and every one is different and reacts to massage differently. I think most people appreciate this but I’m not always sure. Well anyway, thank you so much and I’ll be sure to follow your blogs now! Cheers!

  9. Had my first massage yesterday..I was a little anxious not sure what to expect. I wouldn’t say it was painful but far from relaxing. My back is very sore today. I was told I’d probably be sore and to stay hydrated and ice it if needed. Not what I had expected.

  10. Hi Ian,

    I’m currently a massage student half-way through my program (Swedish 4 mod). We are learning more about detailing and we learned about the psoas this week. I was the guinea pig and was left with a nice big bruise by a LMT of 2+ years in the field. (This is the 2nd time that this LMT beat the crap out of me by demo-ing her routine on me). We keep hearing that a little pain is necessary to be effective. After my experience this week, I call bullshit!!! If I have to inflict pain on a person to be effective in what should be a therapeutic way, I might as well just quit. I’m pissed off because I want to help people, not hurt them!! I went into massage to incorporate it into the energy modalities that I do and add to a person’s well-being. Thank you for giving me the hope that I can be effective without beating the hell out of a client. I’m excited to dig into your blog and I can’t wait to watch your videos!

    1. Was there any pain during this treatment? If so, it’s up to the therapist and you to communicate effectively with each other about what level is ‘good pain’ for you. Some people bruise easily and don’t mind a little bruising as long as their low back pain decreases for at least a few days.

    2. Thanks so much, Naysa! I found that I achieved better results once I started respecting my clients’ pain thresholds, even retroactively: “Oh, you were sore afterward? Let’s lighten up a bit this week.” Yes, I used to do the “no pain, no gain,” type of massage, but I got better 🙂 Something that I frequently tell my new clients is that “I didn’t get into this business to hurt people.” I think that you’re coming from a similar place, and I know that you’ll find many effective techniques that don’t leave the client limping afterward. Cheers!

  11. I had a client tell me that he felt exhaustion leaving his muscles when I massage him. I love that. I noticed that I don’t leave bruises but then as someone pointed out, some people bruise very easily. I hate hurting people but so many want really deep work that I wonder if it’s actually helping them at all. I know my muscles tighten at the thought of pain let alone when something is causing me pain so how can a painful massage help the problem area(s)? And then what about the nerves…too deep in some areas and damage can be done to the nerves.

  12. I can relate, totally. I was a MT for 10+ years, when receiving a massage, I’ve spent the first quarter of my massage time describing the techniques and pressure I would like in my treatment and the reasons. My last 10 + massage therapists have gone too deep for me, they disregard my request to not use their elbows, braced fingers or thumbs, they do not check in, I speak up till I give up because after just a moment or two they go back to deep pressure and their elbows, thumbs and fingers. I don’t understand why they want to work harder when I asked for a relaxing massage (effleurage, petrissage, palmar friction and general Swedish massage techniques) I prefer a slow massage engaging my muscles but with light pressure & explain upfront that I don’t need every massage technique they know. Quality, not quantity. I don’t plan on booking another treatment, ever. I’m done paying for a massage but feeling I should have gotten off the table and ended it after the first 15 minutes. Sad, I know how wonderful a good massage is

    1. Heya Done, we’re in the same boat. I’m now very selective about who I let work on me, and I wish it didn’t have to be this way! I blame the “mechanic mindset” that a lot of MTs have, wherein they think they can change my anatomy without a scalpel if they just try hard enough.

      Respect my nervous system, respect my immune system, and let the “fixing” do itself. If you’re trying to force it, you’re trying too hard.

      I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative experience, and I hope you’re able to find a competent counterpart soon. Massage is supposed to feel good, dammit!

  13. It’s almost 3am and my massage was at 11:30 am today. I never take pain killers, but after feeling nauseas and napping until 5pm because of the pain, I had to take two tylenol. It had minimal impact on the pain. I didn’t hurt at all prior to my massage. Now my shoulder is knotted up, my neck is so painful, my lower back is unbelievable. And I’m online looking for answers as to how I allowed this person to beat me up slowly over the course of an hour? I virtually stopped breathing from the pain they were inflicting on me. Can’t therapists tell when their clients tense up and stop breathing? My entire body must’ve been a brick. My immobility should’ve communicated to them that I was thinking only one thing, “will this be over soon?” I just kept on thinking that they would move on and that it would start to feel good…but after 30+ minutes I gave up on that idea and just thought of ways to help me get through it without getting too angry. I hobbled out of there having to lean up against the wall to put my pants on because I couldn’t balance under my own steam. I’m so gutted, I really wanted a pleasant experience. Did I do something to make them angry at me? Never going back….

    1. I almost started crying reading that. So sorry, Nancy! If you’re feeling lingering upset about the incident, I encourage you to contact the state licensing board and file a complaint. Maybe your MT would have let up if you had told them to, but it is THEIR duty to communicate. They are the “expert,” they have the training. Indeed, they should have noticed you tensing up in response to the pain! No one so insensitive (in more ways than one) should be touching anyone until they get their head on straight.

      Yes, fellow MTs, I am encouraging clients to report you if you suck this bad. Yes, I know that you whine about clients who “don’t speak up” when you get a complaint. Yes, if this is you, you need to get your head out of your ass.

      1. After getting a DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE…over 75 days ago..May 14, I STILL wake up or go to sleep in AGONY AND FEEL IT ALL DAY LONG!! Literally feel that everyday, I get run over AGAIN by that truck!!! It even hurts me to use my fingers and most of my pain seems to be in EVERY JOINT in my body…especially, my elbows. HORRIFIC PAIN!!!
        What happened to me or what did my MT do? For one, do remember her plunging her elbow into my back and YES, she put ALL of her weight on it. Told her previously that I had injuries to every layer of my back….bad ones too. I have a scerlotic lesion(C2),compressed fractures(T3-T4), several in row herniations(T7-T11), plus a protrusion at T8-T9, DDD, Spondylosis, Myofascial Pain Syndrome..if, that isn’t enough??
        When, will this get better or will it? The only thing that has even given me any kind of relief is my acupuncturist. He did give me 2 days of not having to wear compression socks on both of my arms. Please tell me that this will get better, but don’t believe that it is ever going to. What do I need to do because of what my MT done?

    2. Oh my gosh! I feel like I just read what I wanted to write! It’s 2am and 2 days after my massage. Last night I could barely lay down on my back bc my skin was so sensitive. I managed but woke up in the middle of the night and rubbed some Tiger Balm on myself. It didn’t really help. I’ve been tossing and turning tonight too and just googled “malaise after massage.” I also wondered how he couldn’t tell that I was tensing up! I was clenching my feet and hands. Practically arching my back it hurt so bad. And like you, also stopped breathing to get thru the pain. I will go back bc this is my first bad experience. I’m just mad at myself for letting him go on.

  14. Hi I’m a newly licensed massage therapist and just happened to stumble across this article just now, im happy you say massage therapy isn’t supposed to hurt, when I talk to my clients I tell them this all the time, I tell them there is a difference between good hurt and bad hurt and if they have any discomfort whatsoever to please let me know for safety reasons. While I was at school they expressed the IMPORTANCE of communication and am soo surprised and saddened that this is an issue . All my new clients receive very detailed information about the massage I will be conducting and the power they have because it’s their massage and their body and I always ask them if they have any questions for me and I listen to what they have to say. im sorry for anyone who has been hurt by their therapist and for that reason I will work harder to improve the level of quality in our field and promote higher standards for care .

  15. My husband who is NOT an lmf massaged my back the other night. I’m about 117lbs and very skinny (due to medical reasons). He rubbed my back so hard it was excruciating. He is also about 230lbs and had sit on me to rub my back. I didn’t remember her had rubbed my back. When I woke up I was in severe pain. It lasted 2 days, but my lower back is still in excruciating pain. It feels broken. I can’t stand or sit or lay I’m miserable. I can’t walk. What should I do?

  16. Ian, Wow, that was spot on. I’m a Licensed Massage Therapist in Ohio, and I also found it a little confrontive. I have to ask myself how well I do with each thing you brought up. Overall, I’m doing alright, but certainly I can do better. I wish is this piece was a little less crude, not for my personal taste – I loved it – but I would love to share it on my page and I don’t think all of my clients would be as receptive to it, sadly.
    Many of the things you hit on I was taught wrongly about in school. It seems I am in a constant state of UNlearning about massage.
    Lastly, I work at a Chiropractors office part time and one of the Therapists actually said, “We don’t hurt clients, they are already hurting when we touch them…” WHAT? I checked him on that and told him that I disagreed and that more healing and relaxation can happen for clients if we can gradually help their muscles release their tension.
    I have had so many clients there tell me how my massage is the best they’ve gotten at that office. I know it’s because the other Therapists feel like they have to FIX things that have been wrong for many years. I have other clients who tell me, “Dig as deep as you can, I’m used to it.” Yet they have been coming there for years and are still as tense as can be. I’m guessing because their bodies are bracing for the contact…
    Thanks so much for this piece! Good to know that there are others who see it the way I do!

  17. Bad massage is worse than no massage. I am a massage therapist and have been bruised or even had nerve damage from over zealous massage therapists. Yes it is hard to say something isn’t feeling right. But you must! If it feels tenDer or sore say something son your therapist can adjust the pressure. If you are feeling sharp pain stop the therapist immediately. That said there is a good hurt while a sore spot releases but the soreness should release in 20 to 30 seconds and you should feel relief. You should feel better as soon as you get off the table and soreness afterwards should be gone in 1 or 2 days. No work on boney areas or bruises should happen. I disagree about your tissues clearing due to massage however. Your muscles and tissues can become hypertonic with over use. This is a chemical state that won’t allow normal fluid exchange in and out of the cell. When a muscle is worked a manual fluid exchange is occurring and this increases blood flow and thus increases the flow of chemistry including carrying waare products out of tissue and into the blood stream. The blood is carrying vital nutrients to your tissue. Definitely drink water after a massage and avoid the problem of your body holding onto waste products that would be better eliminated easily directly after the massage.

  18. You’re completely right. I’m ultra sensitive to my clients. I know when they aren’t being honest. Many expect a painful massage and get tense when it isn’t. I tell them that I’m listening to their body not their voice. Any “pain” they feel should be very momentary and dissolve with a few seconds of manipulation. I work somatically. I use the clients muscle tissue reply to decipher the pressure and their breathing pattern as well as noting any other part of the body tensing up, and of course asking. Asking yields us the least honest answer. Whole-istic. There’s an interesting word broken down. Istic I stic. Kind of like?

  19. Wow so sorry to hear of all your pain you have! As a massage therapist I listen to my clients. I only go as deep as I feel comfortable. If they insist I go deeper and Im not comfortable I tell them why. Hope you find a great therapist in the near future! They are out there. Don’t give up hope! Namaste! 🙂

  20. Oh how I wish I would’ve read this before I went for my massage! She did claim to be busting up stuff as she dug deeper and deeper into me. I literally had to hold my breath throughout the massage. I didn’t speak up because I believed she was doing my body good and this is what I needed to feel better. Now I’m on day 3 and can’t take the constant pain in my upper back. I can’t sleep, or work. I’m just praying nothing was permanently damaged. I was going to go to the chiropractor because I wasn’t connecting the way I’ve been feeling with my massage. After reading your information, I know without a doubt it was from the massage! I just wonder now how long the pain will last. It has stollen the quality of my life. Thank you for all the useful information! I will know better what to say and do of I decide to try a massage again.

  21. OMG. I just came from a treatment and she made me feel guilty that at one point I said it hurt so bad I thought I might be sick The whole hour is pure torchour but she’s telling me I won’t get better if it doesn’t hurt I’m going due to a car accident would that make a difference ?

  22. I had a deep tissue massage 2 days ago and I am in so much pain my clothing hurts my back. I have had several massages over the years and never hurt this bad after a massage. Any thoughts? Is something wrong with me?

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