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Is It Normal to Cry during Massage?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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While it may not be entirely normal to cry during massage, it is not unexpected. Many people experience strong emotional or physical reactions to massage sessions, and massage therapists are usually prepared for different situations. People should certainly not be embarrassed if they start to cry during a massage, as the massage therapist has undoubtedly seen it before.

In the case of crying because of pain, crying while getting a massage is definitely not normal, and the massage therapist should be alerted. Pain during a massage session is very counterproductive, as it causes the muscles to tense, often erasing the work of the massage therapist and making the session somewhat pointless. If a massage is hitting a tender spot or the therapist is going too deep, this should be communicated, so that the massage can be adjusted.

Some people experience tears during massage with no emotion linked to them, while others may experience a wave of sadness or happiness which triggers crying. The massage therapist may stop to provide a tissue and ask if the client wants to take a break, or he or she may keep working until directed otherwise. When people cry during massage, it usually indicates a significant emotional release, and after the crying is over, people often feel much better. Especially for emotionally tense individuals, the cathartic release of crying, even for no obvious reason, can be very beneficial.

In addition to crying, other reactions may appear during a massage session. Some people burst into laughter, for example, especially if a therapist is working on a ticklish spot. Farting and abdominal grumblings are also not unknown, especially in deep tissue massage, where the organs may move around a bit as the massage therapist works. Farting is especially common in massage styles which involve stretching, and it also crops up in yoga classes. Sometimes physical arousal also occurs during massage, in which case it is generally polite for the client to ask for a brief break to relax, settle down, and drink some water, though the reason need not be specified.

If you know that you cry during massage, it can be a good idea to warn a new massage therapist, so that he or she is prepared for it if it happens. You can also express a desire for what you want the massage therapist to do if you begin to cry. Most therapists appreciate the warning and the advance directions so they know what to do if a new client does cry during massage.

Why Does Massage Release Emotion?

The exact reason massage releases emotion is unknown, but logically, it makes sense. Throughout life, people experience stress, trauma, and significant emotional events. These, in turn, stimulate normal human functions and responses like fear, anxiety, and sadness.

The energy and chemicals created at these times are stored throughout the body if it is not appropriately released and dispersed after the event. Most people will routinely store this energy in the same places, such as the shoulders and neck until they become tense and stiff.

During a massage, the muscles release tension. Blood and oxygen are encouraged to move freely to and from the area. This movement can result in emotions, energy, and biochemicals being carried away with that released tension.

Although there is limited scientific research on this subject, massage therapists generally agree that emotional release during massage is common enough not to be a coincidence. Many consider it a critical part of therapy and helping clients reconnect body and mind.

When Is a Client Most Likely to Cry During a Massage?

Every person is different. There is no arguing, however, that most people carry stress around the same areas of the body. Below are some of the most common body parts in which stress and trauma are stored.

Neck and Jaw

Having a stiff neck is one of the most common modern complaints regarding muscle pain. Poor posture and a lack of physical activity can significantly contribute to having a stiff neck. Most of the time, stretching and physical exercise can alleviate this pain. Other times, this stress runs deeper than simply bad habits.

If a client experiences chronic stiffness in the neck or jaw, this is often the result of untreated stress. At times this stress is so persistent that it carries over into a client's sleep and results in rigid neck muscles and jaw clenching overnight. Failure to address these issues could lead to more severe problems like TMJ.

Shoulders and Upper Back

Where there is neck pain, there will likely also be shoulder pain. For similar reasons, such as poor posture, the shoulders carry a lot of tension. Shoulder tension is significant, however, because failure to treat it can result in further emotional distress and lack of confidence.

As the population sits more often, hunched over to look at screens, a tense, weak upper back follows. Not only does this feel terrible, it usually leaves the sufferer dissatisfied with their appearance. It can leave them looking and feeling shorter. Plus, the abdominal muscles which should be supporting the spine become weak, resulting in a bulging abdomen.

There is also an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, which in themselves can create feelings of stress. Being hunched over means constantly restricting blood flow from the heart to other body areas. Therefore, the heart and lungs must work harder to accommodate this poor circulation.

Hips, Glutes, and Lower Back

The hips, glutes, and lower back are distinctly connected. If one is tight or weak, the others will inevitably be affected. Because these muscle groups are so crucial for movement, it is no surprise that they are common points for pain and muscle tension.

A sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly to this issue. The hips are two of the largest joints in the body and must be flexed and exercised regularly to stay in top condition. Because so much stress occurs at work and while people are sitting down, it follows that tension would be stored in these muscles. 

Many clients are surprised by their massage therapist asking if they want work done on these sensitive areas. Although many will choose to forgo it, people shouldn't neglect these muscles. Regular stretching, like with yoga, can help relieve stiff hips and a sore lower back.

How To Avoid Crying During a Massage

In general, clients are encouraged to deal with an emotional release in whatever way feels most comfortable to them. Many people, however, would prefer to avoid it altogether. If a client is concerned that they might cry during a massage, there are a few steps they can take to help prevent this reaction. 

The most important thing they can do is to be prepared. By being aware that an emotional release is possible, it's easier to acknowledge overwhelming feelings and regulate them. A client can also work on managing stress before a massage and talk to a trained professional about dealing with past trauma.

A massage therapist can also let their client know that not everyone experiences an emotional release. In fact, most clients feel a sense of peace and relaxation.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon954270 — On May 31, 2014

It sounds super weird, but I only cry when I get massaged by a male therapist. It's not a bad thing; it's really comforting. In fact, it's the only time I feel crying is comforting instead of terrible when I cry.

By runner101 — On Aug 18, 2011

I heard about crying during a massage on Oprah! I had no idea about it and wondered how common it was. Oprah said she had cried during her massage for the cathartic emotional reasons and not the pain reasons, and she felt amazing after the massage.

I do not know that I will cry during a massage but I have always thought of them as a stress reliever so I could see in that releasing of the stress that it could cause some tears.

Massage seems to be a wonderful tool for overall good physical and emotional health. Now if I could just talk my husband into giving me more of them!

By Mykol — On Aug 17, 2011

I visit my massage therapist every four weeks. After about three weeks have gone by, I can tell that I am due for another one. All the emotional tension and physical work that I do builds up in the neck, shoulders and all the way down my back.

Many times she will come across very tender spots when she is doing some deep tissue work. She can immediately sense this and will quickly do some counter active work that immediately reduces the discomfort of these tender areas.

There have been many times that I have been close to tears, and I don't know if it is from the release of this pain, or an emotional response. All I know is how much better I feel when I walk out the door.

She mentioned to me once that she has a few clients who do cry when they receive their massage. Being aware of this as a massage therapist and knowing how to deal with it, can only help your patients feel more comfortable.

By honeybees — On Aug 16, 2011

If something seems embarrassing to you, that usually means that others have experienced that same thing too. I have never cried during a massage, but can understand why it could easily happen.

When I go to my massage therapist, I have my choice of listening to music and I always choose something that is soft and soothing.

When you combine this music with the atmosphere in the room and the therapy of touch, many emotions are being released and tears are one natural way to release emotion.

The emotional release that you experience after a few tears, along with the improved physical feeling would really make a massage a beneficial experience.

By chivebasil — On Aug 16, 2011

It may not be normal but I have definitely done it. And the weird thing was that it was not linked to any specific emotion. I did not feel an overwhelming sense of sadness or happiness or even calm. It almost just started coming out of my body the way a sneeze does or a shiver. The masseuse took it in stride. I guess it wasn't the first time a client was relaxed to the point of tears

By manykitties2 — On Aug 15, 2011

I think it is completely normal to cry during massage. I actually am one of those people that tends to sniffle my way through a massage, even if it doesn't hurt at all. I feel it is almost a cleansing experience.

I have tried a lot of massages and it seems to me that only those that had a deep sweeping motion really seemed to cause me to tear up. I am not sure if this is completely psychological or not.

I have read a bit and some people seem to think that certain massages actually remove toxins from your body. This process can apparently bring about crying and other emotional reactions.

By wander — On Aug 15, 2011

The only time I have ever cried during a massage was when I was getting my first massage at a Chinese parlor. I was used to the softer Thai massages and was pretty shocked at how deep the Chinese masseuse went. I felt like they were rubbing my organs.

Pretty much the whole experience made my eyes water, though I did feel pretty good afterward. That masseuse certainly knew how to get all of the kinks out of my tired and aching body.

One of the hardest places for me to get massaged was my shoulders. It honestly felt like the masseuse was digging into my very skin. But I think for the relief I felt later it was worth it.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 14, 2011

@alisha-- That is so true! I feel that way when I hug my grandpa. I grew up without a dad and hugging my grandpa has always given me feelings of comfort and security that makes me cry.

I can totally see how the same thing can happen during a massage, especially if you've been going to the same therapist for a long time and feel that they've gotten to know you.

I go to massage from time to time but usually to different therapists. This makes me want to find one and stick to it. And I think of massage as physical treatment. I wouldn't feel ashamed to cry in front of the massage therapist just as I don't feel ashamed to cry in front of my doctor. But I also completely understand those who might feel vulnerable and would want to resist that.

By discographer — On Aug 14, 2011

They say that emotional releases like crying during massage only happens if you really trust your massage therapist and perhaps even feel a close connection with them.

I personally think that crying during massage is normal, even desirable because I believe that "touch" has a direct influence on our emotional state. My mom for example tends to be very stressed and overactive and all of it builds up in her neck area. When she receives massage, that tension and build up disappear.

The same is true if someone is having a hard time emotionally, going through a depression, maybe going through a hard time in their life or have problems expressing their emotions in general, it can all come out during a massage.

Why do we cry or feel emotional when a loved one hugs us? This is the same reason I become emotional and cry during massage.

By umbra21 — On Aug 13, 2011

I have never cried during a massage, but I imagine it is kind of the same thing as crying while you run. I've done that a couple of times.

Generally, you won't even be thinking about anything, and suddenly, you'll be crying.

The first time I sat down and had a little sob on a park bench, but the second time I kept going. I guess it is just an emotional release, and probably it's the exact same thing with massages.

I would personally just as the masseuse to keep going, so I could really try to just work out the emotion and feel better.

By lluviaporos — On Aug 12, 2011

I have certainly experienced pain during a massage. The problem is, it's difficult for someone who isn't used to getting a massage to know how much pain is too much.

Because I was told to expect some pain, particularly with a deep tissue massage. For a while I just sat there and took it, because I thought I shouldn't speak up.

But, once I did, my masseuse made me much more comfortable. So, yeah, don't sit there with tears coming out. Speak up and see what can be done. A massage is supposed to be an enjoyable experience.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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