Most of us choose to have a massage to make ourselves feel better. So waking up the day after a massage with aches and pains is understandably upsetting. It might be easy to jump to the conclusion that your therapist performed a bad treatment, but actually, there could be good reasons for the symptoms you are experiencing.
Read on to discover some of the most common post-massage symptoms, as well as why some after massage pain may actually be good together with a few recommended remedies for future relief.
A perfectly executed massage which benefits your health, can in fact also carry some short-term side effects which may feel a bit unpleasant. The good news is that none of them should be serious or long lasting.
Some of the more common symptoms post massage are described below. You may feel one or more of them after your massage, but many people suffer none of them at all.
The extent to which you experience any of the below depends on the type of massage you received, your individual body type and also the environment in which the treatment was received.
The type of pain is very similar to the sort you may feel after a strenuous session at the gym or after exercising for the first time in a long while. Most people first feel pain in a specific muscle zone, within a day after the massage, although it can sometimes take up to two days to appear.
During a remedial massage, the therapist applies special techniques designed to move and manipulate soft tissues. If your muscle fibres and ligaments are tense and entwined from previous strains, the therapist may have to work deeper and firmer.
Those deeper unravelling efforts can cause microscopic chemical reactions similar to those which occur when you lift heavy weights to build muscle mass. Your immune system is stimulated into producing extra repair proteins and you can end up with a surplus of lactate in your blood stream.
During such surges your body goes into a period of hyperactivity to actively repair and even strengthen muscle fibres and this can also lead to aches and pains from various chemical overloads.
Whilst not scientifically proven, many people also believe that massage can make the lymphatic system more efficient and thereby improve the rate at which waste toxins are removed from the body. Treatments such as lymphatic drainage massage specifically focus on this approach. It is believed that the consequential rapid ‘flushing out’ of toxins may also contribute to post massage aches.
So not only are aching muscles possible after a deep tissue massage, they are a natural side effect of the body going through its recovery period.
If you have been suffering from these types of aches after your treatment, you can jump straight to the recommended remedies now or read on and discover other common post-massage symptoms.
The medical definition of a bruise is ‘broken capillaries and the leakage of red blood cells which can cause a purple-red discolouration of the skin’. Sounds pretty alarming! In reality a bruise is usually nothing to worry about, especially if it appears after a physical interaction such as a collision or a vigorous massage.
The most common types of massage that can result in temporary bruises are anti-cellulite massage and Chinese cupping therapy. If you have particularly sensitive soft tissues and capillaries, then a deep tissue massage may also cause bruising for similar reasons to those described in the aching muscles section.
If you notice a bruise developing after your massage, it will most likely disappear within a few days without any special treatment. To speed up the recovery time you can try the cold compression technique: apply a cool pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel) to the bruised area for 5 – 10 minutes as soon as possible after its appearance. Remove the ice pack and leave to rest for about 20 minutes before cooling again for another 5 minutes. Repeated application can help reduce inflammation and reduce bruising.
Feeling a bit woozy after your massage is also quite common, and especially so if you are not accustomed to getting massages regularly.
A well-executed full body massage not only initiates physiological changes such as the release of happy hormones and improved blood circulation, but can also offer significant psychological benefits through emotive touch and general empathy.
It is no surprise therefore that many people feel a little overwhelmed or even dizzy after their first full body massage.
Pretty much any type of massage style, from feather light relaxation treatments to remedial deep tissue therapy can cause these kinds of feelings.
If you have felt faint after a massage, check out some recommended remedies or read on to discover other common post-massage symptoms.
It is possible that you may feel a slight headache coming on during or soon after your massage.
The most common reasons for headaches which begin soon after a massage are a general lack of hydration and sudden changes in blood pressure.
If you have not been well hydrated before your treatment, energetic manual therapy and an excessively warm room can hasten the onset of dehydration. When we begin to become dehydrated, we often suffer a headache as a first warning sign.
During a massage we may lay motionless for a duration of as long as two hours. Standing up abruptly after any extended period of lying flat (such as at the end of your massage) can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, which in turn can also cause a headache.
Finally, the most obvious reason for getting a headache during a massage is also the most easily avoidable: a head massage with the wrong level of pressure!
During a Jet Lag Indian head massage, the therapist will usually apply focused pressure for several seconds by pressing the fleshy parts of their thumbs against the temples at each side of the head. Done appropriately this can be very soothing. However, as the temples are highly sensitive, if too much pressure is applied it can easily cause a headache to start.
If you have been experiencing headaches during or after your massage, jump to the recommended remedies now or read on and discover other common post-massage symptoms.
Much rarer than any of the above, it is nevertheless also possible that some types of massage may cause nerve pain.
Sometimes people request a deep tissue massage at a specific point with the hope of relieving ongoing pain in that zone. In certain circumstances a deeper level of pressure may indeed be beneficial. But occasionally the underlying cause of discomfort is actually a compressed nerve. In such cases, the application of intense pressure can actually amplify and exaggerate soreness. It is therefore vitally important that in addition to stating your preferences you also allow your therapist to professionally assess your body and the appropriate treatment style.
Nerve pain that is experienced as a result of too much pressure being applied inappropriately during a massage is usually temporary and fixes itself within a few days or so. It is incredibly rare and difficult for massage to actually cause serious or permanent nerve damage.
So what should you do after a massage to reduce the onset of pain or other symptoms? Well the good news is that you can avoid most of the above issues with the following simple guidelines on what to do before, during and after your massage.
Avoid dehydration - sip a glass of water in the hour leading up to your massage
Reduce the risk of injury - do not assume that all pain is always beneficial. Immediately tell your therapist if the pressure is too much and ask them to adjust their treatment so that you feel more comfortable
Keep blood pressure steady - do not jump up off the bed immediately at the end of your massage. Remain lying down for a few minutes and then slowly move to a seated position
Avoid dehydration - sip another glass of water after your massage
Steady nerves - avoid the temptation to grab your mobile phone and instead focus on being mindful
Reduce DOMS - if you feel sore in the days following your massage, avoid exercising that area. Soak the affected area in a hot bath and drink lots of water to stay fully hydrated.
Do not stress - if you find yourself becoming stressed because of continuous pain after your massage, take a painkiller to allow yourself some mental relaxation and avoid anxiety, as that in itself can be counter-productive.
Most post-massage pains are part of a natural healing process and disappear within a few days. The remedies above can help mitigate the extent of pain and speed up recovery time.
If you have tried the above tips but are still suffering after several days, or if the pain you are feeling is extreme at any point, then always consult your doctor for further advice.
A properly performed massage is not at all dangerous and also should never be unbearably painful, either during or after the treatment. The old “no pain, no gain” adage is exactly that - old and outdated. Follow your instincts and help your therapist to perform the most appropriate and pain free treatment for you.