Does a massage therapy treatment have to hurt?

Ryan Young
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The answer to this question is going to depend...

The answer to this question is going to depend on whom you ask. But in reality, the answer is, "It depends!"

If you're receiving a relaxation treatment, then the treatment generally shouldn't cause you undo pain. However, if you have sought treatment to address one or more ailments that impede your daily function in some way, the treatment may cause you some discomfort. The likelihood of this is especially high if they're longstanding issues.

I've written a number of articles talking about the importance of continuing to move and using catch phrases like "Use it or lose it!" Well, I am going to talk about it some more here. The single biggest reason for people presenting with musculoskeletal pain is because they either stopped moving or have continued to move improperly for some time.

Our muscles and tissues are "sandwiched" together and against one another. They must glide and slide throughout our infinite movements. The way they do this is through maintaining healthy circulation and lubrication between every fiber. Imagine drizzling olive oil over your spaghetti noodles and how they would glide and slide on one another. However, if you let the noodles sit for a prolonged period of time, as in the cases where we assume a static posture for a prolonged period of time, the noodles' starch will cause adherence between them.

Adherence between tissue fibers occurs by means of biochemical reactions within our bodies. These adhesions alter and inhibit our natural patterns of movement. This develops more and more over time, leading to our either stopping movement altogether or compensating.

On one end of the spectrum, there are minor tissue irritations that can be quickly resolved within one to several massage therapy sessions. Then there are the ones that have developed into more complex restriction and compensation patterns.

I attended a workshop in Vancouver where a researcher from Italy presented on how the more complex situations, which haven't responded to typical therapy, will require the therapist to induce a mild inflammatory response in the area to correct the problem. This has been shown to reverse the biochemical processes that are responsible for the adherence.

The question then becomes, are you open to having the discussion with your therapist about potentially causing some short-term pain for long-term gain?

Ryan Young, BHSc, RMT, SMT(cc) practices at KD Physical Therapies Inc. – Medicine in Motion, in the Burnside Business Park. If you have experienced musculoskeletal pain that hasn't responded to traditional approaches, feel free to email or call to inquire about your options at or 468-2774, extension 2.

Geographic location: Vancouver, Italy

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