By Cathy Ulrich
Some people believe massage must be painful to be effective. While some modalities may be intense, this doesn’t necessarily translate to a knuckle-biting experience. In fact, painful bodywork can be counterproductive. If you can’t breathe comfortably, want to tighten up, make a face, or curl your toes, the technique is too much for you. Your body will go into a protective mode and actually block any positive change.
“No pain, no gain” just doesn’t have to apply when it comes to bodywork. Be sure to provide feedback to your practitioner so that you’re on the same page. Think of it as a “scale of intensity.” On my scale, zero is not touching you and ten is pain–not the worst pain you’ve ever felt but the place where you want to hold your breath, tighten up, make a face, leave your body. That’s a ten.
You shouldn’t ever have to be in a pain range to get results, and be sure to let your practitioner know if you’re in an eight or nine range. They may stay at that level if that’s where the therapeutic value will be attained, but again, only if it’s manageable and you’re not tightening up.
And every single client is different. Not only do invdividuals all start in different places, but their bodies respond differently, and their pain thresholds are extremely varied. What one person finds heavenly, another calls torture.
If it does feel too painful, be sure to tell your therapist. Usually, a practitioner can simply slow down to ease the intensity without losing therapeutic value. Sometimes, if you are nervous or stressed, just remembering to breathe will make your body more open, and you’ll remain comfortable.
Bodywork needn’t be a test of how tough you are. By giving your therapist appropriate feedback and understanding that painful techniques aren’t really helping your body heal, you’ll have a great experience in the session and feel better afterward.