Eyes open slowly, blinking periodically to adjust for a new day. A deep breath is taken while your limbs stretch out, and that’s when you feel it. 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’re even a little more tired than usual. 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 (commonly known as knots), possibly causing 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, if you happen to be dehydrated on the day of your massage, your muscle tissue will not be as pliable, and you will 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 a muscle was worked on too hard, too fast. Or, perhaps you are unknowingly tightening a group of muscles during a massage, anticipating pain. It can take some serious concentration to relax all of your muscles, and not doing so can result in varied muscle pain after a massage.
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 your water intake, both before and after your appointment.As mentioned above, hydrated muscles are more flexible. Also, there are some strongly-held beliefs that drinking water after a massage can help to flush away the toxins released by massage. 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.
- Take a warm bath, ideally with Epsom salts (1/2 cup to 1 cup for adults), and soak for 20-40 minutes.Epsom salts are an inexpensive and effective way to further help your body rid itself of toxins and reduce muscle inflammation. You also get the added bonus of absorbing the beneficial magnesium found in Epsom salts through your skin.
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.