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Is it Normal to Feel Tender After a Massage?

It’s the evening after, or, more likely, the morning after, a particularly firm massage and you’re beginning to feel like you’ve been mummified! Your muscles are aching and burning and you might even feel some slight swelling along them. In some cases, you might even wonder if you’re coming down with a cold.

The idea of a massage is supposed to be that you feel all light, refreshed and soft, right? So why do you feel like you just ran a marathon?

Don’t call up your therapist to put a rocket up them, though, because they’ve actually done the job properly!

A good massage should hurt a bit

If you’ve been for a nice aromatherapy massage, then you’ll probably get an easier ride, but a sports or deep-tissue massage should really make itself known. In a deep massage, your muscles are stretched and challenged. Ideally you should sustain millions of microscopic injuries along the muscle fibres. As horrific as this sounds, this is exactly what a good, hard workout will do for you. These micro-injuries will heal rapidly, which is actually how muscles are stimulated to grow. In a massage, though, they’re also encouraged to grow longer as well as bigger; not all bunched up like a bodybuilder.

Those miniscule injuries also lead to lots of extra blood flow to the muscles, which leads to the swelling and tenderness. You can minimise this feeling and still get the benefits by being well-hydrated for your appointment, but you need to feel some pain to know that the treatment was thorough.

An all-over burn

The pain, soreness or tenderness should be fairly evenly distributed, although if you have an awkward spot – your shoulder muscles, maybe – then there might be more there. If you feel any sharp or very localised discomfort, then you should mention this to your therapist, just in case you tense up too much in one area.

How to minimise the soreness

You can reduce the post-massage discomfort in a few ways. Mainly by staying well-hydrated. Some people believe that lots of water flushes away toxins released by the massage, but it’s more likely that the extra water facilitates the extra blood flow to heal the micro-injuries and helps to avoid cramps. Do it anyway!

Stretches before you go to bed also help. Try to fit some in before you seize up because while you can do stretches when it really hurts, you’re best off doing them when it just slightly hurts! It’ll “show” the muscle fibres the way you want them to repair, too.

Having a good deep, warm bath is also a good idea, but make sure you carry on drinking water while you’re soaking. You still sweat while you’re in the bath, you just don’t see or feel it so you can get dehydrated if you’re not careful.

Having regular massages means you get used to the next-day pain; you might even start to enjoy it in the same way that you relish that post-workout burn!

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