top of page
  • Writer's picturePaula VanBaalen

Too much of a good thing is a good thing...

More is better, right?

Not always. Even when it comes to massage and bodywork. 

Quick side note: It's always interesting talking to people about what they believe massage therapists do. Often times massage is minimized as "just applying lotion". But if you've participated in one of our student teaching sessions, you know that it's a lot more than that. For example, while we're applying lotion we're assessing your tissue quality. We're noticing the temperature, consistency, pliability, receptibility, and adaptability of your myofascial, skin, and neuromuscular systems. We're also paying attention to your breathing patterns, bracing patterns, body awareness, comfort, etc...

At Ohana, we believe in working with your body rather than attempting to force it into compliance. So when we talk about more not always being better, there are five main reasons why.

Massage Therapy: Holding space for you to reconnect your body, mind, and soul.

Five reasons to not be over-treated by your massage therapist. 

1) Integration. On the science-y side of things, your massage therapist is introducing a lot of information to your system. If your massage therapist attempts to fully release every single one of your tissues' issues in one 60-minute session, your body most likely will go into overwhelm. Rather than integrating the new information and staying in a state of relaxedness, your body will soon go back to it's old holding patterns. After all, the discomfort of staying the same is easier for your body to adapt to than trying to process change everywhere all at once. 

2) Muscle guarding. This is the body's natural protection mechanism. Sometimes muscle guarding is productive and necessary, sometimes it's an old message hanging out longer than is useful.

An example is a bulging disc in the spine. If you have this, your body has created some muscle guarding to protect the vulnerable disc from further injury. While we want to release some of the unnecessary muscle guarding, if we release it too quickly we might actually cause more harm than good. 

3) Stressing an already stressed system. This is especially true for those with chronic pain or central sensitization syndromes. If you receive too much deep work, too quickly your body can create new muscle guarding rather than relieve muscle guarding.

Another thing to keep in mind is where is your stress tolerance is prior to the session. (Stress tolerance is an equation of your baseline stress in life and how much more you can experience before your nervous system says enough is enough ~ we'll circle back to this concept in a future email). If you've had a very stressful day, your body/mind is already occupied trying to keep you upright and functioning. If we try to throw a lot of new processing information at it, it most likely won't stick. Days that your stress tolerance is low it's best to receive a restorative or relaxation massage rather than effective deep tissue.

4) Side effects. While there are very few negative side effects to massage, many of the ones that are experienced are a sign of over-treatment. Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, grogginess, considerable soreness, and/or bruising are not only unpleasant but also counterproductive to the wellness benefits of massage and bodywork.

Keep in mind that some discomfort can be expected after deep releases. Productive discomfort is usually similar to exercise soreness or may temporarily re-create an old pain pattern. Very rarely does productive therapy leave you feeling like you got hit by a Mac truck afterwards. If that happens it should be the outlier, not after every massage session... 

5) Fear/avoidance response. Imagine being in pain, not knowing what to do and hearing great things about massage therapy. So you try it out. Rather than the deeply relaxing experience you've heard about, your massage therapist cranks on and digs into every area of tension you have. When you express your discomfort, she tells you to breathe deeper and wiggle your toes to grit your way through it because she 'knows' this is what your body needs. After an hour of this, you peel yourself off the table and leave in more pain than you walked in with. Does that sound like something you'd like to repeat? I know I wouldn't. 

The sad thing is, that's a real experience shared with me several years ago. The icing on the cake ~ the massage therapist in question worked at Ohana for a brief period of time. You better believe that I've changed my onboarding process after hearing that. I vowed to never, ever allow one of my staff to mistreat someone like that ever again. That kind of behavior does not fit Ohana's values. We want to work with you and your body, not bully it into submission.

We'll see you on the massage table.


bottom of page