How Do You Feel After A Massage? Effects & How To Manage Them

Picture the scene: you’ve finally booked your massage treatment. You did all your research, going through every type of massage you could think of to make sure you found the perfect treatment for you. You searched through all the local spas and parlours, reading every review and taking every friend’s recommendation. You went in for the treatment, and it was a wonderful experience. Relaxing, refreshing, revitalising. Exactly what you needed.

But a little later, your stomach is churning. And the next day, you’re even more sore than you were to start with. You ask around, but your friends don’t know what you’re talking about. They see that same therapist all the time, and never have any complaints.

So why do you feel this way after a massage?

Post-massage discomfort

There’s an expectation that after a massage treatment, you’ll feel rejuvenated. But for a lot of people, that simply isn’t the case. Factors such as massage type, how used to the process you are, and your general wellbeing going into the treatment can all play a role in how you feel afterwards.

Some post-massage complaints include:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

Some are more common than others, but few will require anything more than monitoring and taking things easy for a few days following the treatment. Pain/general soreness is perhaps the most common and is generally to be expected if you’re new to massage or if the appointment is part of treatment for an existing injury.

These side-effects can be scary, especially if you haven’t had a massage before and only heard wonderful things from family and friends. We’ll dive a little deeper into how you can manage this discomfort later, but first let’s look at a more preventative solution – choosing the right massage style.

Choosing a treatment

Knowing what you’re in for is half the battle, so let’s start by breaking down a few of the most common massage treatments, how they work, and what some of the potential benefits might be.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu massage originated in Japan and combines traditional Chinese medicine with other therapies such as acupuncture and herbal remedies. Shiatsu follows the principles of ‘Qi’ (energy) and meridians (the channels in the body through which energy flows). Shiatsu works by applying pressure to specific acupressure points around the body to increase energy flow and correct any imbalances in the patient’s Qi, encouraging the physical, mental, and emotional strengths to work in harmony.

Massage techniques include pressure, kneading, and tapping – very appropriate given that ‘Shiatsu’ actually translates to ‘finger pressure’!

Some of the potential benefits include:

  • Increased endorphins
  • More energy
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased flexibility

Chinese

Two different types of massage therapy make up Chinese massage – Tui Na, a push and pull method, and Zhi Ya, which uses pinches and pressing. It can be used in conjunction with acupuncture, and its main goal is to heal the body by addressing imbalances in the patient’s Qi. Depending on your preference and needs, it may be a gentle, relaxing experience or a stronger deep-tissue massage – expect to feel the latter a lot more.

Techniques include compression, friction, vibration, joint manipulation, and pinching and grasping.

Some benefits you may experience are:

  • Increased blood circulation
  • Quicker injury recovery
  • Better sleep cycles
  • Increased energy
  • Better balance
  • Improved emotional health

Remedial

Remedial massage is a key component of sports massage and is frequently used in injury recovery. It targets the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, assisting in rehabilitation and pain management. Remedial massage therapists use a variety of techniques to assess and treat specific parts of the body, focusing on knotted, tense, stiff or damaged muscles.

Techniques used include deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, stretch therapy, joint mobilisation, myofascial release, thermotherapy, and cryotherapy.

Remedial massage may suit those looking to:

  • Improve joint mobility
  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce recovery time
  • Improve heart rate regulation

Deep tissue

Deep tissue massage is another form of massage therapy aimed at sports injuries, using slow, deep strokes to reach the inner muscle layers. This can help break up scar tissue post-injury and reduce overall tension.

The techniques used are similar to those of a Swedish massage but require much more pressure. A level of discomfort is certainly to be expected here, and therapists will usually use a mix of techniques to ensure there is ample breathing room between the more painful movements. Your therapist will also rely on you to communicate how you’re feeling – tell them if it’s too much!

Deep tissue massages may benefit you by:

  • Reducing lower back pain
  • Managing postural problems
  • Improving flexibility
  • Aiding injury recovery
  • Relieving headaches

Thai

Thai massage is part of the country’s traditional medicine, and, like traditional Chinese medicine, works with the body’s meridian flows. In this case, they’re known as sen lines. Thai massage differs from other practices – instead of lying on a massage table, you instead lie fully clothed on a mat on the floor. You will also participate more actively in the process.

Thai massage therapists will generally use a combination of pulling, rocking, elbow and knee work and stretching. The stretching is a key part of the process, and due to this Thai massage is sometimes referred to as assisted yoga.

Some key benefits include:

  • Relief from headaches
  • Reduced back pain
  • Increased flexibility
  • Pain and stiffness relief

Swedish

Swedish massage therapy is one of the most common forms of massage on offer. It is a fairly gentle form of massage, focused on relaxation and relief.

You can expect techniques such as effleurage (circular movements), petrissage (deep kneading movement), tapotement (tapping to stimulate blood flow), friction, and vibration.

Potential benefits may include:

  • Pain relief
  • Boosted mood
  • Tension relief
  • Lymph drainage
  • Improved flexibility

Hot stone

A hot stone massage combines some of the more common massage techniques with the placing of smooth, flat heated stones on specific areas of the body. These stones are usually made from basalt, which retains heat. The practice has been used all around the world for thousands of years, believed to have started in China almost 2,000 years ago.

The heat from the stones relaxes the muscles, allowing for a deeper massage. Cold stones may also be used to help soothe the skin after the hot stones have been removed, and to reduce any inflammation. The techniques used are generally similar to those of the Swedish massage.

Hot stone massage might help with:

  • Relieving muscle tension and pain
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved sleep
  • Boosted immunity
  • Relief of autoimmune disease symptoms

Managing side-effects

Once you’ve chosen your treatment, it’s now time to start considering preparation and aftercare. You want to get the absolute best out of your massage, after all.

Preparation

Before you even set foot in the spa, you need to ensure you’re heading to the right therapist for the right massage. Spend some time deciding what kind of treatment you’re looking for, and be sure to book in with a practitioner that is qualified and reputable.

Get a good night’s sleep and avoid alcohol and caffeine ahead of the appointment. You should also have a light snack an hour before, and make sure to stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water with you and wear light, comfortable clothes.

It’s also important to communicate thoroughly with your therapist. Let them know what you want to get out of the experience and direct their attention to any injuries or ailments they need to be aware of. Let them work with you to make the experience the best it can be.

Aftercare

After the massage is when the ‘self’ part of ‘self-care’ really kicks in. Be sure to listen carefully to your therapist and take note of any aftercare advice.

Get up slowly and give your body time to readjust after spending so long lying down. Nausea immediately after your massage may be a sign of postural hypotension, a form of low blood pressure that happens if you get up too quickly after lying or sitting down. It should pass quickly, but be gentle with yourself until it does.

Nausea in the days following may be a sign that the massage has done its job – massages can help remove toxins from muscle tissue, dumping them in the lymphatic system and sending them on their way out of the body via the renal system. It’s particularly common with deep tissue massages, so if you’d like to avoid post-massage sickness, a gentler Swedish massage might be your best bet.

The most common side effect is, of course, pain. Massages can both target particularly tense areas, and parts of the body that don’t get much use. In both cases you’re likely to feel it in the hours, and even days, after the massage.

Be sure to rest and drink plenty of water. As before, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and be sure to eat something. You may want to do a few gentle stretches to alleviate the pain and release tension. You might also like to take a hot shower or visit a sauna to further relax the muscles.

Some people like to use essential oils for pain relief, adding them to a warm bath or using a diffuser. Others prefer topical treatments, such as Deep Heat.

However you choose to recover, one of the best ways to ensure a more comfortable experience next time is to make sure there is a next time. Massages can become a valuable part of your routine and the more you go, the better you’ll feel!

References:

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