The morning after the day before

Inevitably at some point during a treatment, whilst pullling a stick out of their bag, a client will say "I can take more pain", or "You can go deeper if you want".  

Before qualifying fours years ago as a sports and remedial massage therapist, I used to attend the ocassional fitness weekend, mainly at Camber Sands, where for some bizzare reason, I'd like to put my body through sheer hell! Attending as many classes as possible in one day, and feel the need to beast myself into a state where my lower limbs no longer felt attched to my upper body. The event organiser's in their wisdom used to provide a therapist, at an extra cost to provide different recovery treatments, one being sport's massage.

The morning after the day before, having taken 5 minutes to walk down the stairs, and struggling to lift myself off the toilet, I was looking forward to my pre booked sports massage.

A few of my friends, who were with me, took a sharp intake of breath saying "That's gonna hurt". I'd never experienced a sports massage, and I was now extemely apprehensive, and my legs were shaking at the thought of any more pain.

I'm not sure whether it was the fact that I was walking oddly, or the panic on my face, but the therapist could sense that I was nervous.  He put me at ease, and reassured me that although sports massage was deep that he would work within my pain scale.  Only having experienced a spa massage, which felt quite ticklish to be honest, I really didn't know what to expect.  

When the brain senses threat, that may cause our body harm,  it reacts in a defensive and protective way.  My legs felt like lead, and if they could have mustered the strength I'm sure they would have been prepared for battle with his oncoming hands.  I can't lie, the first few strokes of the massage were intense, and I could understand why my friends pre warned me, but throughout the massage, my therpaist was constantly asking me how the pressure was, and worked within a pain scale of between 1-10.  My legs were elated, and I walked out feeling light as a feather, and ready for round two.

I decided to book in for another session the following day, unfortunately the therapist that I'd seen that day was fully booked, but another one was available.  After another full day of throwing myself around a room, and a couple of spin classes I couldn't wait for my massage.

My brain and body was in a totally different mindset, I walked into the therapist's room feeling relaxed, and my legs were calling to be massaged.  Well, what a totally different experience, the therapist did not ask me once about my pain scale, and by the time I walked out I felt battered and bruised, literally.  I've been through childbirth, so I am tolerant of pain, but being typically English, I didn't like to complain, but she must have been able to tell I was in pain by the fact I held my breath for most of the time, and I started sweating!

The contrast between the two treatment's was dramatic, and everyone's pain tolerance is different, but I know which one was the most effective. After training as a therapist, and understanding how the brain deals with pain, the body needs to feel "safe" in order for it to recover quickly and to perform to it's optimum.  

My experience between those two massages, in terms of my physical and emotional response was immense.  The key difference between the two thearpist's was communication, my body knew exactly where it was with the first therapist, which isn't to say it wasn't intense, but I felt in control of what my body could take.  

Should sports massage be painful?  The techniques, the depth pressure and speed used should be tailored to the individual client and thier needs, if this is done effectively then the soft tissues being worked on respond extremely well, and do not need to be further traumatised.  


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