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Rest, drinking fluids, and applying heat or cold can help with soreness after massage. If soreness persists for more than two or three days, or becomes extremely painful, it may be a sign of an injury that could require medical treatment. Massage does carry some risks, particularly for those with certain conditions. It can be important to discuss medical history with a massage therapist before a session, identifying any causes for concern. Patients in treatment for ongoing medical problems might want to discuss massage with their doctors to determine if it is right for them.
Various massage techniques can cause different levels of soreness. Some involve deep muscle work which can make people sore, just like working out. When the muscles are not used to being manipulated in a particular way, they can become tender. This is a special concern with deep tissue and trigger point massage, both of which can involve intense, sustained pressure as part of the session. Soreness after having a massage can be more likely when the work is deep.
Immediately after a massage, people may feel languid and relaxed. It can help to rest and stay warm after the massage to allow the muscles to slowly cool down and recover from the session. This may reduce the development of soreness after massage. Drinking fluids can also help. If soreness does develop, more rest may be beneficial, as can hot or cold compresses to ease inflammation and encourage the muscles to relax.
Those receiving massage regularly may notice less tension and soreness after sessions because their bodies are accustomed to the sensation. It may help to work with the same practitioner, and to engage in activities like slow, gentle stretching between sessions to keep the muscles flexible. Clients can also discuss concerns about soreness after massage before they start, allowing the massage therapist to make some adjustments to the session to reduce the risk of creating muscle tenderness and tension.
Signs that soreness after massage is abnormal can include sharp pains, twinging, or extreme tenderness when people try to use muscles in ordinary ways. These may indicate the presence of bruising or injuries underneath the surface of the skin. Massage therapists can potentially sensitize nerves or compress tissue in a session. For patients with cancer and certain other conditions, massage can also lead to edema, buildups of fluid below the skin that may cause pain. In these cases, a doctor may need to provide treatment.