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How much pressure during a massage is the right amount?

“No pain, no gain, right?” Is one of the most frequent statements made by massage therapy clients in reference to the amount of pressure they like during a massage.  Yet, they often come in with pain and there is no sign of gain.

How much pressure is the right amount?

The only accurate response is entirely subjective.  Equating deeper massage pressure with better treatment outcomes has no supporting research evidence.

To compound the uncertainty surrounding this issue is the fact that the mechanism of action of massage outcomes is not fully understood.

Pain has a single function which is to alert us that something is wrong.  Pain suggests injury.  Pain during a massage has the possibility of injuring soft tissues and to put the nervous system on high-alert that a threat is present.

Yet, what about that ‘feel good’ pain when your massage therapist is working out a trigger point in a sore muscle?

Clearly, there is no easy answer.

A general rule of thumb is in order.  If you are holding your breath and tensing your body during the massage, the pressure is invasive and unlikely to be productive.

Next time your massage therapist asks “How is the pressure?”  let them know, don’t compare yourself to an imaginary or movie-based image of someone loving a massage that is clearly painful.

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