It’s the day after your massage, and when you roll out of bed you wonder to yourself, “Did I work out yesterday? Did I lift weights in my sleep?” Your muscles feel a little sore, and some seem a bit swollen, almost like they’re bruised. You think that surely something must be wrong. This soreness couldn’t possibly be a result from your massage . . . could it? Didn’t you schedule your massage with the hope that your tight and tender spots would feel some relief afterwards?
Before you reach for the phone to give your massage therapist an early morning, “What did you do to me?” know that it is perfectly normal for your body to feel a little sore and out-of-whack the day after a massage, as counter-intuitive as it seems. For your muscles, getting a deep-tissue massage is similar to experiencing a tough workout. They got stretched and manipulated during the session, and the massage increased blood circulation to your tight spots. The lining of our muscles is supposed to be smooth and work fluidly. When a certain group of muscles gets tight, strained or kinked, it becomes more rigid, and will rely on surrounding muscle areas to pitch in and help.
During a massage, the therapist works to stretch, lengthen, and break up groups of muscles (what you might refer to as knots). This process may cause post-massage soreness from waste metabolites and by-products of tiny micro tears in the muscle along the way. This is a normal function of massage, and while it leads to more blood flow and healing to that area, it can also lead to that day-after tenderness. Also, depending on the overall hydration of your body’s tissue, your muscle tissue may l not be as pliable, and you may potentially l feel more soreness afterwards.
If your muscles actually hurt more than they did before, and are not just tender to the touch, be sure to communicate this to your massage therapist before your next appointment. Perhaps the pressure was applied too quickly and/or past your pressure tolerance.
After your massage that same day, there are some easy, pleasant things you can do to help prevent some of the next-day soreness:
- Be purposeful about spending some down time after a massage so your nervous system can integrate. In addition, staying hydrated is never a bad idea, and after before or after a massage session is no different.
- Do some gentle stretching that evening, paying special attention to your trouble spots that received the most attention during your massage.
- You may find comfort in taking a hot bath to further enhance feelings of relaxation and rest.
While having tender muscles is not exactly enjoyable, it is a natural, normal part of the journey of health and well-being that comes with taking care of yourself by receiving massages. As your body becomes accustomed to regular massages, you’ll experience the next-day soreness less frequently, making the experience that much more pleasurable.
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