Some of the students on the Holistic Massage course at the Bristol College of Massage Bodywork, where I work, asked me the following question: Does massage have to hurt to get results? They had experienced the benefits of relaxation in massage but not sure how to approach remedial work as they had received treatments in the past that were sometimes unpleasant. So unpleasant, they felt unwell the next day and needed to recover from it. They thought that they had to create similar experiences for their clients. And they appeared very reluctant to work in that way but assumed it was necessary.
No pain, no gain, right? Sounds like old school thinking, and it probably is. Many people have been on holiday abroad and experienced something similar or been to a Spa where there was a heavy-handed routine.
I shared my views. And in my opinion, it is not desirable to endure high levels of discomfort when receiving massage. This is not how I work and not the kind of massage I would choose for myself. My preferred course of action is to reduce a heightened nervous system response before moving on to more focused work where it is needed. When body tissues are in a temporal or chronic state of excitement or stress, they receive an increased energetic input from the body. Initially, this level of energy needs to be reduced and toned down before working on specific areas. Inviting your clients to let go via surrendering to pain is forcing relaxation. It’s not a pleasant method for relaxing the body and possibly shows a disregard for clients. There are a few people who enjoy a great deal of pressure and discomfort. And it is producing results as well, but not really necessary. The nervous system responds faster and with more benefits to a subtle approach. Why shout at the body when it listens to much quieter stimuli and with fewer side effects?
As a therapist, I intentionally want to stimulate a new healing response in my clients. Creating a level of inflammation in tissues that have become stuck is part of that. Experiencing soreness afterwards is not required. I work by fine-tuning the level of discomfort with feedback from my clients when focusing on responsive areas.
This allows my clients to experience the point of release, slowly and gently. It is often accompanied by lightness, ease, and an increased range of movement in the body.
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