Research Behind the Good Pain Massage: Benefits and Risks

I’ve been doing massage for 15 years and have been getting massage since I was in my twenties. Being an athlete with many sports behind me, I’ve had many injuries and surgeries and I find it hard to find a therapist that fits my body’s needs. When I try to look for a massage therapist I try to find someone who does super intense deep therapeutic bodywork “Good Pain” because that is what works for my body. I am not a masochist, far from it, but my body and brain respond to super-deep bodywork. For me, there is nothing like a long “good pain” massage. Let’s face it it’s not for everyone but I found that most athletes love super deep work and I’m one of those guys. Anybody like myself who has nerve and muscle damage, back issues, and many injuries appreciates deep therapeutic bodywork. PRO massage is proficient in many massage modalities but PRO massage specializes in this type of  “good pain” therapeutic bodywork for men and women.

https://santabarbaradeeptissue.com/index.php/2017/11/13/pro-barefoot-massage-santa-barbara-goleta/  

 

https://santabarbaradeeptissue.com/index.php/2019/02/13/barefoot-massage-ashiatsu-in-santa-barbara-goleta-deeper-than-deep/  

 
 

The Science and Research Behind Painful Massage Modalities: Benefits and Risks

Massage therapy encompasses various modalities, each with specific techniques, pressure levels, and intended outcomes. Some modalities are more intense and can be perceived as painful. While pain during a massage might seem counterintuitive, certain painful techniques can provide significant therapeutic benefits. This discussion delves into the science, research, benefits, and potential drawbacks of painful massage modalities.
 

Painful Massage Modalities that PRO Massage incorporates into your bodywork session 

  1. Deep Tissue Massage
  2. Trigger Point Therapy
  3. Myofascial Release
  4. Neuromuscular
  5. Thai Massage for Athletes

Painful Massage Modalities that PRO Massage Doesn’t incorporate into your bodywork session 

  1. Rolfing (Structural Integration) – I’ve read Ida Rolfs’s books and some of my clients have commented that my bodywork is similar.

Deep Tissue Massage

Technique and Intensity

  • Pressure: Deep and intense pressure is applied to target the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues.
  • Strokes: Slow, firm strokes and deep finger pressure.
  • Goal: To break down adhesions (knots) and relieve muscle tension.

Science and Research

  • Effectiveness: Studies have shown that deep tissue massage can be effective in reducing chronic pain, improving blood pressure, and alleviating symptoms of conditions like fibromyalgia.
  • Pain Mechanism: The pain experienced during deep tissue massage is due to the intense pressure applied to muscle adhesions and tight areas, which can temporarily increase discomfort.

Benefits and Risks

  • Benefits:
    • Pain Relief: Helps in managing chronic pain.
    • Improved Mobility: Breaks down scar tissue and improves range of motion.
    • Reduced Stress: This can decrease stress hormones and increase relaxation.
  • Risks:
    • Discomfort: The intensity can cause significant discomfort during and after the session.
    • Bruising: Potential for bruising and soreness post-treatment.

Trigger Point Therapy

Technique and Intensity

  • Pressure: Direct, sustained pressure on specific trigger points (hyper-irritable spots in the muscle).
  • Goal: To release tension and referred pain from these points.

Science and Research

  • Effectiveness: Research indicates that trigger point therapy can effectively reduce myofascial pain and tension headaches .
  • Pain Mechanism: Trigger points are often sensitive, and applying pressure to these areas can cause localized and referred pain.

Benefits and Risks

  • Benefits:
    • Pain Reduction: Effective in treating referred pain and muscle tightness.
    • Increased Range of Motion: Helps in releasing muscle knots and improving flexibility.
  • Risks:
    • Pain During Treatment: This can be quite painful, especially if the trigger points are highly sensitive.
    • Post-Treatment Soreness: Potential for soreness and discomfort after the session.

Myofascial Release

Technique and Intensity

  • Pressure: Gentle, sustained pressure is applied to the myofascial connective tissue.
  • Goal: To release restrictions in the fascia to improve movement and reduce pain.

Science and Research

  • Effectiveness: Studies have shown that myofascial release can improve pain, range of motion, and function in patients with various musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Pain Mechanism: Although generally less painful than deep tissue massage, the sustained pressure can still cause discomfort, particularly in areas with tight fascia.

Benefits and Risks

  • Benefits:
    • Improved Flexibility: Releases fascial restrictions, improving overall mobility.
    • Pain Relief: Reduces chronic pain related to fascial tightness.
  • Risks:
    • Discomfort: Some discomfort during and after the session, particularly in tight or sensitive areas.
    • Bruising: Risk of bruising or minor injury if not performed correctly.

Rolfing (Structural Integration)

Technique and Intensity

  • Pressure: Deep and intense manipulation of the body’s connective tissues.
  • Goal: To realign the body’s structure and improve posture and movement.

Science and Research

  • Effectiveness: Research suggests Rolfing can improve posture, reduce chronic pain, and enhance overall body function.
  • Pain Mechanism: The process of manipulating deep fascial layers and connective tissues can be painful, especially if there are significant imbalances or adhesions.

Benefits and Risks

  • Benefits:
    • Postural Improvement: Helps in correcting structural imbalances.
    • Enhanced Movement: Improves range of motion and overall body function.
  • Risks:
    • Pain During Treatment: Known for being particularly painful, especially in the initial sessions.
    • Emotional Release: This can trigger emotional responses due to the deep physical and psychological connections with the body’s structure.

Conclusion

Painful massage modalities such as deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and Rolfing can offer significant therapeutic benefits. These techniques can effectively alleviate chronic pain, improve mobility and correct structural imbalances. However, the intensity and potential pain associated with these treatments require careful consideration. It is crucial to work with a skilled and experienced therapist who can tailor the approach to individual needs and tolerance levels, ensuring the benefits outweigh the discomfort. The effectiveness and appropriateness of these modalities depend on the specific conditions and pain thresholds of individuals. While painful, the targeted benefits they offer in terms of pain relief, improved mobility, and structural alignment can make them valuable components of a comprehensive treatment plan for various musculoskeletal issues.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thai Massage: Science, Research, and Pain Considerations

Introduction

Thai massage, also known as Thai yoga massage, is an ancient practice that combines acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures. Originating in Thailand over 2,500 years ago, it is performed on a mat on the floor, and the practitioner uses their hands, knees, legs, and feet to move the client into a series of stretches. The technique is known for its rigorous and sometimes intense application, which can lead to discomfort or pain during the session. This discussion explores the science, research, and pain considerations associated with Thai massage.

 

The Science Behind Thai Massage

Techniques and Methods

  1. Acupressure: Thai massage involves applying pressure to specific points on the body, similar to acupuncture but without needles. This is believed to stimulate energy flow and promote healing.
  2. Yoga-like Stretching: The practitioner guides the client through a series of stretches that resemble yoga poses, which can improve flexibility and joint mobility.
  3. Rhythmic Compression: Gentle rocking, rhythmic pressing, and stretching are used to relax the muscles and improve circulation.

Physiological Effects

  1. Improved Circulation: The pressure and stretching techniques can enhance blood flow and lymphatic drainage, aiding in the removal of toxins and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
  2. Muscle Relaxation: Deep pressure and stretching help to relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility.
  3. Stress Reduction: The combination of physical manipulation and rhythmic movements can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

Research on Thai Massage

Pain Relief and Functional Improvement

  1. Chronic Pain: A study published in the “Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies” found that Thai massage significantly reduced pain intensity and improved pain-related disability in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
  2. Osteoarthritis: Research in the “Clinical Rehabilitation” journal showed that Thai massage was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with knee osteoarthritis, suggesting its potential as a complementary therapy.
  3. Range of Motion: Studies have demonstrated that Thai massage can improve the range of motion in joints, particularly in the shoulders and hips, which can be beneficial for athletes and individuals with mobility issues.

Psychological Benefits

  1. Stress and Anxiety: A study in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” reported that Thai massage significantly reduced stress and anxiety levels in healthy adults, highlighting its psychological benefits.
  2. Sleep Quality: Another study found that participants who received Thai massage reported better sleep quality, likely due to its relaxing effects on the nervous system.

Pain Considerations in Thai Massage

Pain Mechanism

  1. Acute Pain: During the massage, acute pain may occur due to the intense pressure and stretching applied to tight or knotted muscles. This is typically short-lived and should subside after the session.
  2. Pain Tolerance: Individuals with low pain tolerance or those new to Thai massage may find the experience particularly uncomfortable. It’s essential to communicate with the therapist to adjust the pressure as needed.

Benefits of Pain in Thai Massage

  1. Release of Tension: The discomfort experienced during the massage can lead to the release of muscle tension and knots, which can result in long-term pain relief.
  2. Endorphin Release: Painful stimulation can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, leading to a sense of euphoria and reduced pain perception post-massage.

Potential Risks and Drawbacks

  1. Injury Risk: Improper technique or excessive pressure can lead to muscle strains, bruises, or joint injuries. It is crucial to seek treatment from a trained and experienced practitioner.
  2. Not Suitable for Everyone: Individuals with certain conditions, such as severe osteoporosis, acute inflammation, or recent surgery, should avoid Thai massage due to the risk of exacerbating their condition.

Conclusion

Thai massage offers a range of physiological and psychological benefits, supported by research demonstrating its effectiveness in pain relief, stress reduction, and improved flexibility. The pain experienced during the massage, while sometimes uncomfortable, can contribute to the overall therapeutic effect by releasing muscle tension and stimulating endorphin production. However, it is essential to approach Thai massage with caution, particularly for individuals with low pain tolerance or specific medical conditions. Communication with the therapist and ensuring they are well-trained can help mitigate risks and enhance the therapeutic benefits. Overall, Thai massage can be a valuable component of a holistic approach to health and wellness, offering both immediate and long-term benefits.

References

  1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: Research on chronic pain relief with Thai massage.
  2. Clinical Rehabilitation: Study on Thai massage for knee osteoarthritis.
  3. Range of Motion Studies: Various research on joint mobility improvements with Thai massage.
  4. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Study on stress and anxiety reduction.
  5. Sleep Quality Research: Studies on the impact of Thai massage on sleep.
 
 
 

Why Some People Like “Good Pain” Massages

Psychological and Physiological Mechanisms

  1. Endorphin Release:
    • Mechanism: Painful stimuli can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which produce a feeling of euphoria and well-being.
    • Effect: This endorphin release can make the pain experienced during a massage feel rewarding, leading to a sense of relaxation and contentment post-massage.
  2. Release of Muscle Tension:
    • Mechanism: Deep pressure and targeted massage techniques can release muscle knots (adhesions) and tension.
    • Effect: The temporary discomfort is often seen as a precursor to long-term relief and improved muscle function, making the pain feel purposeful and beneficial.
  3. Psychological Catharsis:
    • Mechanism: Experiencing and enduring controlled pain in a safe environment can provide a sense of psychological release and empowerment.
    • Effect: This can lead to reduced stress and anxiety, and an overall sense of mental and emotional well-being.
  4. Perceived Effectiveness:
    • Mechanism: There is a common belief that more intense treatments are more effective.
    • Effect: People may feel that the intensity of the pain correlates with the therapeutic benefits, enhancing their perception of the massage’s effectiveness.

Science and Research on “Good Pain” in Massage

Benefits

  1. Pain Relief and Management:
    • Research Findings: Studies have shown that deep tissue and trigger point massages, which often involve “good pain,” can effectively reduce chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain and fibromyalgia.
    • Mechanism: The pain experienced during the massage can help in breaking down scar tissue and adhesions, improving muscle flexibility and reducing pain in the long term.
  2. Improved Circulation and Healing:
    • Research Findings: Intense massage techniques can enhance blood flow to the affected areas, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.
    • Mechanism: Increased circulation helps in the removal of metabolic waste products and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
  3. Enhanced Range of Motion:
    • Research Findings: Techniques that involve deep pressure and stretching can improve joint flexibility and muscle elasticity.
    • Mechanism: The pain associated with these techniques can lead to the release of tight muscles and fascia, allowing for greater mobility.

Risks

  1. Potential for Injury:
    • Research Findings: Improper technique or excessive pressure can cause muscle strains, bruising, and joint injuries.
    • Mechanism: Overly aggressive massage can damage muscle fibers and connective tissues, leading to pain and discomfort beyond the massage session.
  2. Exacerbation of Conditions:
    • Research Findings: Certain health conditions, such as acute inflammation, fractures, or severe osteoporosis, can be worsened by deep tissue massage.
    • Mechanism: The intense pressure can aggravate these conditions, leading to increased pain and potential complications.
  3. Post-Massage Soreness:
    • Research Findings: It’s common to experience soreness after a deep tissue or intense massage session.
    • Mechanism: The microtrauma to muscle fibers during the massage can result in temporary soreness similar to that experienced after a vigorous workout.

Balancing the Benefits and Risks

Good Practices

  1. Professional Assessment:
    • Mechanism: A trained massage therapist can assess individual needs and tailor the intensity of the massage accordingly.
    • Effect: This helps in maximizing benefits while minimizing risks.
  2. Communication:
    • Mechanism: Clear communication between the client and therapist about pain thresholds and comfort levels is crucial.
    • Effect: Ensures the massage is effective without causing undue discomfort or injury.
  3. Gradual Intensity:
    • Mechanism: Starting with lighter pressure and gradually increasing intensity allows the body to adapt.
    • Effect: Reduces the risk of injury and enhances the overall therapeutic experience.

Conclusion

The experience of “good pain” during a massage can have significant therapeutic benefits, including pain relief, improved circulation, enhanced range of motion, and psychological well-being. However, it’s essential to balance these benefits with potential risks, such as injury, exacerbation of existing conditions, and post-massage soreness. Ensuring proper technique, professional assessment, and clear communication can help maximize the positive effects while minimizing the risks. For many, the short-term discomfort is a small price to pay for the long-term relief and overall well-being that effective massage therapy can provide.
 
 
 

The Science and Research Behind Barefoot and Barefoot Thai Massage

Introduction

Barefoot massage, including barefoot Thai massage, is a technique where the therapist uses their feet to apply pressure and perform various massage movements. This modality leverages the practitioner’s body weight to deliver deep, broad pressure, which can be more intense than traditional hand-based massage techniques. Barefoot Thai massage, in particular, combines elements of traditional Thai massage with the additional intensity that comes from using the feet.

Techniques in Barefoot and Barefoot Thai Massage

  1. Use of Feet:
    • Pressure: The therapist uses their feet to apply deep, consistent pressure.
    • Movements: Techniques include pressing, gliding, stretching, and rocking.
    • Body Weight: The therapist’s body weight is leveraged to deliver deeper pressure.
  2. Floor-Based Practice:
    • Position: Both client and therapist typically work on a mat on the floor.
    • Stretching: Assisted stretches, similar to yoga poses, are integrated into the massage.
  3. Rhythmic Compression:
    • Techniques: Rhythmic pressing and releasing help improve circulation and relieve muscle tension.

Physiological Effects

  1. Deeper Pressure and Muscle Penetration:
    • Mechanism: The use of feet allows for broader and deeper pressure, effectively targeting deeper muscle layers and large muscle groups.
    • Effect: This can lead to a significant release of muscle knots and adhesions.
  2. Improved Circulation:
    • Mechanism: The broad, deep pressure stimulates blood flow more effectively than lighter hand pressure.
    • Effect: Enhanced circulation aids in the removal of metabolic waste and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
  3. Enhanced Flexibility:
    • Mechanism: The integration of stretching techniques helps lengthen muscles and fascia.
    • Effect: Improves overall flexibility and range of motion.

Research on Barefoot and Barefoot Thai Massage

Pain Relief and Functional Improvement

  1. Chronic Pain Management:
    • Findings: Studies have shown that deep tissue techniques, including those used in barefoot massage, can effectively manage chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain and fibromyalgia.
    • Mechanism: The deep pressure helps in breaking down adhesions and scar tissue, improving muscle elasticity and reducing pain.
  2. Enhanced Mobility:
    • Findings: Research indicates that the stretching and deep pressure of barefoot Thai massage improve joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
    • Mechanism: Regular application of these techniques can result in increased range of motion and reduced stiffness.
  3. Stress Reduction:
    • Findings: A study in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” found that Thai massage, including barefoot techniques, significantly reduces stress and anxiety levels.
    • Mechanism: The physical manipulation and rhythmic movements activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation.

The Appeal of “Good Pain” in Barefoot Massage

Psychological and Physiological Mechanisms

  1. Endorphin Release:
    • Mechanism: Painful stimuli during the massage trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
    • Effect: Endorphins produce feelings of euphoria and well-being, making the pain feel rewarding.
  2. Release of Muscle Tension:
    • Mechanism: The deep pressure and stretching release muscle knots and tension.
    • Effect: The temporary discomfort is perceived as a pathway to long-term relief and improved muscle function.
  3. Perceived Effectiveness:
    • Mechanism: There is a belief that more intense treatments are more effective.
    • Effect: Clients feel that the intensity of the pain correlates with therapeutic benefits, enhancing their perception of the massage’s effectiveness.
  4. Psychological Catharsis:
    • Mechanism: Experiencing controlled pain in a safe environment can provide a sense of psychological release and empowerment.
    • Effect: This can lead to reduced stress and anxiety and an overall sense of well-being.

Benefits and Risks

Benefits

  1. Deep Muscle Relief:
    • Effect: Effective in relieving deep-seated muscle tension and chronic pain.
  2. Improved Flexibility and Mobility:
    • Effect: Enhanced joint mobility and muscle flexibility.
  3. Stress Reduction:
    • Effect: Significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels.

Risks

  1. Potential for Injury:
    • Effect: Improper technique or excessive pressure can cause muscle strains, bruising, or joint injuries.
    • Prevention: Ensure treatment from a trained and experienced practitioner.
  2. Not Suitable for Everyone:
    • Effect: Certain conditions, such as severe osteoporosis, acute inflammation, or recent surgery, can be exacerbated by deep pressure.
    • Prevention: Individuals should consult with a healthcare provider before undergoing intense massage techniques.

Conclusion

Barefoot and barefoot Thai massage offer profound therapeutic benefits through deep pressure, improved circulation, enhanced flexibility, and significant stress reduction. The “good pain” experienced during these massages is often associated with the release of muscle tension, endorphin production, and perceived effectiveness, contributing to their popularity. However, it’s essential to balance these benefits with potential risks, such as injury and exacerbation of certain conditions. Proper technique, professional assessment, and clear communication between client and therapist are crucial to maximizing the positive effects and minimizing risks. For many, the temporary discomfort of “good pain” is a small price to pay for the long-term relief and overall well-being provided by these powerful massage modalities.  

Massage therapy, including deep tissue, Thai, and neuromuscular massage, has been the subject of numerous studies exploring its effectiveness in relieving pain, promoting relaxation, and improving overall well-being. Here’s a discussion of the science and research behind these modalities:

PLUS – even more 

  1. Deep Tissue Massage:

    • Deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Research suggests that it can be effective in relieving chronic muscle tension, reducing inflammation, and improving blood flow.
    • A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that deep-tissue massage significantly reduced pain in patients with chronic low back pain compared to therapeutic massage.
    • Another study in the same journal indicated that deep tissue massage combined with stretching was more effective than traditional Thai massage in reducing chronic low back pain.
  2. Thai Massage:

    • Thai massage incorporates stretching and pressure point techniques along energy lines called “sen.” Research on Thai massage is somewhat limited but shows promising results.
    • A study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that Thai massage significantly reduced pain intensity and improved muscle tension in patients with chronic tension-type headaches.
    • Research in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests that Thai massage may improve range of motion and flexibility, potentially benefiting athletes and individuals with musculoskeletal issues.
  3. Neuromuscular Massage:

    • Neuromuscular massage focuses on addressing trigger points, muscle spasms, and nerve compression. It aims to balance the nervous system and restore normal muscle function.
    • A study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that neuromuscular massage therapy was effective in reducing pain and improving range of motion in patients with chronic neck pain.
    • Research also suggests that neuromuscular massage may help alleviate symptoms of conditions like fibromyalgia and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
  4. Other Massage Modalities:

    • Research on other massage modalities, such as Swedish massage, shiatsu, and myofascial release, also demonstrates their effectiveness in pain relief and stress reduction.
    • Swedish massage, characterized by long, flowing strokes, has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation.
    • Myofascial release techniques aim to release tension in the fascia, the connective tissue surrounding muscles. Studies suggest it may be beneficial for conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain.

In summary, scientific research supports the efficacy of various massage modalities, including deep tissue, Thai, and neuromuscular massage, in relieving pain, reducing muscle tension, and improving overall well-being. However, more studies are needed to further understand the mechanisms of action and optimize their therapeutic benefits.

 
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.