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Posted by: Katherine Hill, 22 May 2009 12:45PM
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sports massage and pain

Recently I have had two clients for a sports massage and can't stop thinking about their comments. One of them asked me if he would be screaming as he did in a previous treatment by an unknown therapist and the other one told me of the anxiety and fear she felt before she went for treatments on her back because of the pain induced by the therapist. This other unknown therapist would 'work' so hard on my client that she would exclaim how tired it had made her and after a couple of days my client would have black bruises all over her back from knuckles and elbows. I'm just asking for comments really regarding sports massage and why do people think sports massage therapists have to hurt them??? thanks Kathy


Mark Pearson
4 Jul 2009 12:37AM

Hi Katherine It's a shame really that folk do not fully understand the concept of DEEP and HARD. Sports massage has this problem, that most people think they will have to bite on a piece of wood when they come for treatment. I have been qualified in sports massage for 10 years and still have to dispell that myth when new patients come along. As sports therapists we know that the training we get is geared towards understanding HOW the body works when it moves and WHAT can go wrong when it doesn't move properly - we are taught techniques and skills to help restore 'pain free' mobility....and if the muscles that we are working on are tight, then it may feel quite painful as they release. However, bruises? Never - that comes down to competent training and ethical measures. I was taught about being HARD and DEEP on patients a long time ago and I never forget the advice i was given. Pass it on to every patient/client. HARD is unnessecary at all times, DEEP is effective in the right setting. Good luck
Beth Reynolds
6 Jul 2009 10:48PM

Hi Kathy, These comments are not exculsive to sports massage alone, as I have had clients comment on how they have felt sore and bruised after deep tissue massage. I have explained on several occassions that deep work doesn't have to be painful and you certainly shouldn't feel BRUISED. Clients seem to think that they need to feel this way for the massage to be effective, but as far as I'm concerned there is no remedial benefit to this type of work. Beth
Gillian Kenyon
8 Jul 2009 10:42AM

Just for clarification - Sports Massage is NOT a single treatment which is 'heavy' or 'deep' or 'light'. Sports Massage is a generic name for a cluster of different techniques used for different purposes in relation to preparing for and recovering from activities undertaken, plus injury prevention, plus injury rehabilitation for sporting and exercise-related activities. Elements are also used for remedial massage and in some rehabilitation treatments for non-sports related conditions. The Techniques can include any and more than the following massage techniques: Palpation, Effleurage, Cam and Spindle Technique, Petrissage, Squeezing, Frictions, rocking and shaking, tapotement, Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Neuro-muscular Technique, Muscle Energy Technique, Soft Tissue Release, Strain-Counterstrain, Connective Tissue Manipulation, Acuprssure. The sooner that People are educated that any and all of these plus more techniques are used as appropriate to the client objectives under the treatments with the global term of 'Sports Massage' the better. If anyone has been on a Sports Massage course and doesn't know about the above techniques, I would be questioning what level course they did and the practical knowledge and experience in Sports Massage of whoever it was that had taught them. As therapists, we too have a duty to explain this to clients. Some techniques are deeper than others, some are 'lighter' by virtue of what they are designed to achieve. Vodder's technique of Manual Lymphatic Drainage is, for instance, a technique that uses such a light pressure that it is extremely light. Also, bear in mind that some clients have higher pain thresholds than others and when injured, what to one person may seem 'light' may to another seem 'painful'. It is up to the practitioner to work closely with the client to gain feedback and work within the thresholds of the client. That ability often comes with experience - it is rare to find it in therapists at the outset of their working life after initial qualification. If a client insists that 'pain is good' it is up to us to explain exactly why this is not necessarily the case and to dispel the myth. Be aware, some techniques such as NMT do require an amount of pain by virtue of what they are doing physiologically. Rome wasn't built in a day and an elephant can't be eaten in one bite - but we can educate each and every client in the hopes that as a whole, the general public will eventually be 'infected with knowledge' rather than have their understanding 'corrupted by myth'. To do this, we therapists need courses that are consistent and teach us how to address these client concerns and issues with 'knowledge' not 'myth'. We also need our professional bodies to also help 'educate' the public using fact and not to continue to promulgate popular misconceptions.
Andrzej Ostapko
20 Dec 2010 9:00AM

One more thing to consider when treating clients with diabetes as they often have different pain threshold in a sense they may not feel pain that easily so when we asses them always need to ask about this health problem and during treatment be really careful
Caz Sayles
7 Jun 2011 10:12AM

I do deep tissue massage and I will always work to the clients threshold, which varies everytime. Sometimes after a very deep massage you will feel slightly bruised the next day (or a more correct term would be tender) this is due to the release of the toxins from the muscle, particularly if the muscle had been incredibly tight. There should NEVER be any bruising to the skin though, this suggests a meeting of the therapist and bone which would indeed be incredibly uncomfortable. I constantly check with my clients that the pressure is bearable, although I am aware that some will just grit their teeth and not say anything. I then will be guided by body language. I once had a deep tissue massage where the therapist worked with elbows and full body weight on my scapula and pervis....!!! I squealed and jumper off the bed, where she told me that "a deep tissue massage hurts and sometimes feels like the bone is being broken!!!" Needless to say I never went there again!!!
Maria Elizabeth Pali
17 Jan 2012 5:58PM

http://www.bodyworkcpd.co.uk/articles/Riggs/ThoughtsAboutPainPt1.pdf Just read this article and thought it might be of interest. For what it's worth, I personally like a bit of pain when I'm massaged, (I'm not saying that this is what I do to all my clients though!) - anyway it's an article by Art Riggs who is a Rolfer/deep tissue massage specialist.
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