No Pain No Gain – Debunking the Myth

25 September 2023

Debunking “No Pain, No Gain”

You may have heard the term “no pain, no gain” and we hear it a lot as massage therapists, but is this really true? In short NO!  You do not need to experience pain during your treatment. Read on to find out how we can provide you with deep, sustainable results without the pain!  

We all know massage therapy is known for its ability to relax the body and ease muscle tension. However, there is a common misconception that massage must be painful in order to be effective, especially when it comes to remedial massage. This belief can be a deterrent for many people who may benefit from massage, due to an injury or chronic pain. Contrary to popular belief, remedial massage doesn’t need to be painful, and there are many ways to reduce the pain associated with a massage therapy session.

So why do we feel pain?

Well, pain is a subjective and very individual experience. It is a complex process that involves many receptors and pathways in our body.

Pain occurs when nerves are stimulated, either because they sense inflammation or tissue damage. When nerves sense either of these events, they send signals to the spinal cord, which then sends messages to the brain. The brain then processes this information and creates the experience of pain. This pain isn’t the same for everyone, and many different factors such as your physiology and even your experiences growing up shape the way you and your brain interprets pain. 

Relaxation is key

There are many receptors located in the muscles and fascia – the thin layer that surrounds your muscles – that can cause pain during remedial massage. One of them, the nociceptor, is a receptor that responds to painful stimuli such as pressure, heat, or cold. When a nociceptor is stimulated, it sends signals to the brain, creating the sensation of pain. There are also muscle spindles, which are muscle receptors that sense changes in muscle length and tension. When muscle tension increases, our muscles become sensitised, and a massage can be uncomfortable or painful. Furthermore, when your body is on edge, it releases a hormone called cortisol also called the stress hormone. This in turn leads to increased muscle awareness and results in those stiff muscles and heightened sense of pain – think of our ancestors running away from a lion. 

Another reason why massage can be painful is because of the body’s response to pressure. When pressure is applied to an area of the body, the body’s natural response is to tense up to protect the area. This makes it difficult to access deeper muscle layers, which are often the source of pain and discomfort. So being able to let your muscles go during a massage is very important.

How do you reduce pain during a massage?

What we can do as therapists is to start the massage by using slow light strokes to take the edge off the nervous system and allow the body to release. This prepares the soft tissues for the work we are about to do. This not only reduces pain during a massage but also significantly enhances the benefits of the treatment. 

Another way to reduce pain during remedial massage is a technique called myofascial release. Myofascial release is a hands-on therapy that involves applying pressure to the fascia to release tension and reduce pain. During a myofascial release session, the therapist uses a variety of techniques to mobilise the fascia. By working with the fascia we can reduce what you might have heard as “knots”, which is when the muscle and fascia become intertwined. Releasing the fascia allows the muscle to begin to move more freely.

The benefits of myofascial release go beyond reducing pain during a massage. It can also improve muscle flexibility and range of motion, increase circulation, and improve posture. Additionally, by promoting relaxation, it can help reduce stress and anxiety, which are often contributors to chronic pain and even discomfort. 

It’s also important to note, as discussed earlier, pain is a relative experience. What may be painful for one person may not be painful for another. That’s why communication with your massage therapist is key during a session. Always let your therapist know if you are experiencing discomfort or pain during a treatment. A good therapist will be able to adjust their technique and pressure to ensure you remain comfortable while still receiving the benefits of the massage.

Treatment Plans

A single treatment to unwind a condition that has been building in your body for weeks if not years, is not going to be successful. You will feel results, you will feel better, but you will likely end up in the same place in a couple more weeks.  This is why we provide a treatment plan, to create a step by step plan to get you to sustainable results. 

In Conclusion

To summarise, remedial massage doesn’t need to be “no pain, no gain” and there are many ways to reduce pain during a massage therapy session. Understanding the various receptors in the fascia and muscles that can cause pain during remedial massage is important. By using techniques such as myofascial release and maintaining open communication with your therapist, you can achieve the benefits of a remedial massage without the pain – which will go to providing a better result as your therapist will be able to work deeper. Remember, pain is subjective, and what may be painful for someone else may not be painful for you. A good massage therapist will be able to tailor their approach to your individual needs and preferences.

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