Does Sports Massage have to ‘hurt’ to be effective?
Does Sports Massage have to ‘hurt’ to be effective? This question is often asked…
No! Sports Massage should never need ‘hurt’ to be effective. NEVER.
In November of last year, British Olympic Swimmer Rebecca Adlington described on a television program that “Sports Massage has to ‘hurt’ to be effective and you have to ‘you know, get into it'”…
When the perception of Sports Massage of our world class professional athletes is one that it has to ‘hurt’ to be effective, where does that leave the general public’s perception of our profession?
So I state again. No! Sports Massage should never need ‘hurt’ to be effective. NEVER.
This is my opinion, based on my experience as a professional Sports Massage Therapist, I do firmly believe in this and I feel it suits the style I treat in and it seems that my Clients appreciate my approach:
Firstly, I feel that Sports Massage is a incorrect label for what a great deal of us do. Because potential Clients hear ‘Sports Massage’ and think two things:
- Sports Massage is only for Athletes or Sports People.
- Sports Massage will either or has to ‘hurt’ to be effective.
Now I believe that both of these are a complete fallacy.
To address point number 1. I think we should be relabeled to something like ‘Soft Tissue Manipulation & Remedial Massage’ or ‘Remedial and Therapeutic Massage’ or something of the like. For this would go a long way to changing peoples perception of the treatment on offer. But it is very hard to change a long vested label and even harder to reshape peoples beliefs.
As to the second point and in challenge to Rebecca Adlingtons statement, I never believe that ‘Sports Massage’ has to ‘hurt’ to be effective and I always describe to my Clients that this should never be the case during or after a quality ‘Sports Treatment’.
The problem with the word ‘hurt’ is that it always has a negative connotation, this is why I do not use it. When I describe what a deep ‘Sports Massage’ treatment should feel like, I tell my Clients that the targeted area of massage or site of treatment/injury, should always be warmed with great intention firstly, in preparation for the deeper work to follow. Then once the deeper, focused treatment and techniques do commence, the body or soft tissue structures that I am focusing on are prepared and will accept the direct pressure applied.
Next, I talk about the Client always being in control of the pressure applied. This is achieved by giving the Client the freedom and full permission to describe how comfortable they are with the applied pressure and how the technique feels for them. If they are not feeling comfortable about either of these two then their body is not going to be accepting of the applied work, will rebel against the treatment and therefore will not likely experience any real benefit.
Now, I describe to the Client that we want to work with what is called ‘Good Pain’ or ‘Grateful Pain’. And I detail this to them that ‘Good Pain’ or Grateful Pain’ is where the pain that you may possibly experience within the localized area of treatment, you only want it to ever reach a level that feels like ‘Yes, it may be painful. However, it is kind of soothing and releasing at the same time’, but should never feel like ‘Ouch! Get the hell off me’. And we certainly NEVER aspire to the ideal of ‘No Pain, No Gain’. So I ask them that we always work to their own pain scale. 0/10 being no pain and 10/10 being the most excruciating pain you have ever experienced. I then state to never let my pressure or application of technique take your pain scale over that of a 6/10, MAXIMUM 7/10.
Then, instead of using the word ‘hurt’, I use the word ‘intense’. Example… “This technique may feel a little intense. However, I want you to take a deep breath in, exhale slowly and describe to me the level of ‘good pain’ you are experiencing”. And of course, always saying that if it is feeling too much, please state so immediately and I will alter the pressure, technique or focus of the treatment. When I use a word like ‘intense’ it gives the Client an image in their minds eye that this treatment is going to have a professional focus and depth with intent, which are all positive and supportive statements and therefore transpose into healthy energy and feelings. Then the Client never need feel ‘hurt’ and will disrobe the belief that ‘Sports Massage needs to HURT to be effective’.
Finally, I always warm down the site of chronic injury or area of focused work to soothe out and help the body quickly forget the ‘intensity’ of the treatment or techniques. Then in the time after the Client has gotten off the table and is again dressed, I ask them to describe how they or the area of treatment is now feeling. Then to dispel any idea in their head that they may feel ‘hurt’ the next day, I state to them “Now, tomorrow or even possibly the next day, you may feel a little ‘tender’ from the intense and focus work that I have performed today, however, this is part of the healing process and a healthy response to the treatment that has been performed”. This creates an expectation in their minds eye of exactly what I am stating. That this is a positive thing, not a negative, like that which the word ‘hurt’ would bring. Of course I also say that “If something does feel unduly painful or just does not feel right, to please contact me immediately and we can discuss it further”. That way it still shows them that I am here to support them post treatment.
So some of what I have described above is about how the treatment is approached and performed, but it is also most certainly about the power of language. Only using positive words and statements such as ‘intense’ and ‘grateful pain’ and the movement away from traditional negative words and statements such as ‘hurt’ and ‘No pain, no gain’, help and empower the Client to heal themselves and not dwell or focus on the negatives such as ‘hurt or ‘bad pain’. Therefore I have found that my Clients don’t feedback to me that they felt ‘hurt’ and they only ever have a positive experience and positive things to say about ‘Sports Massage’…
This information was brought to you complimentary and with the aim to benefit all, by Fibre Tense Massage. It is always advised that you should seek medical attention if you are suffering any undiagnosed pain that is of concern.