8 Medical Experts Who Specialize in Massage Therapy Research

Research has shown, and continues to support, the benefits of massage therapy. These eight researchers have made significant headway in the field of massage.

Physicians across the globe increasingly recommend massage therapy to their patients. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service covers 80-100% of massage therapy costs for patients with certain conditions. Here in the United States, over 65% of doctors refer patients who seek information about massage recommend this complementary treatment and refer them to massage therapists.

Medical researchers at top schools nationwide have gathered a growing body of evidence that massage therapy benefits patients with a wide range of symptoms and conditions. People increasingly turn to massage therapy, one of the top 5 complementary therapies in the United States, and about 18 million patients in the United States report using massage therapy.

Many college and university medical schools today support professors and faculty researchers who study the mechanisms and effects of massage therapy. Among them are the following individuals:

  1. Tiffany Field, PhD

For over 30 years, the University of Miami has set the standard for U.S. massage therapy research. In 1992, Dr. Field founded the Touch Research Institute, which employs researchers from top universities like Harvard, Maryland, and Yale. The first of its kind in the world, this organization studies massage therapy’s many applications in science and medicine, as well as its profound health and wellness benefits.

In 2016, Dr. Field (along with colleagues from the Touch Research Institute and the Children’s’ Hospital of Philadelphia) researched the effect of mother to infant massage on sleep quality for both babies and mothers. These experts discovered that a simple 15-minute oil massage before bed led to better sleep for mothers and babies (compared to no-oil massages and a control group that didn’t engage in massage therapy). In a similar 2010 study, Dr. Field and her colleagues discovered preterm babies gained weight faster and increased their bone density when their mothers massaged them with oil.

  1. Maria Hernandez-Reif, PhD

A faculty member at the University of Alabama, Dr. Hernandez-Reif frequently shares her expertise in developmental, cognitive, and behavioral psychology with the Touch Research Institute. An expert in the psychology of infant diet and digestion, she has contributed to many studies involving massage therapy and pediatric care (and over 160 publications, in total).

Dr. Hernandez-Reif has helped the Touch Research Institute identify and optimize specific massage therapy techniques to promote infant health, such as oil massage and moderate (vs. light) pressure.

  1. Miguel Diego, PhD

A pediatric specialist at the University of Miami, Dr. Diego has worked on over 125 research projects. In addition to studying the effects of massage therapy on infants, he has studied the use of massage therapy to treat arthritis pain in the hands, neck, and knees. Dr. Diego studies the psychological effects of complementary therapies like massage therapy, yoga, and tai chi on mothers with postpartum depression and their infants. He has collaborated with Dr. Field on many Touch Research Institute studies.

  1. Marlaine Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith serves as the Dean of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing. As a registered nurse and a professor, she has worked to expand the theory of nursing and increase the body of knowledge about massage therapy in nursing environments. She studies many holistic healing methods, such as touch therapy, reiki, and jin shin, among others.

At the University of Colorado School of Nursing, Dr. Smith leads research teams in foundational studies of massage therapies in hospital settings. She discovered that massage therapy facilitated patients’ recovery times, mobility, and energy. When working with cancer patients, Dr. Smith and her colleagues learned massage therapy reduces pain, increases sleep quality, soothes anxiety, and improves distressing symptoms.

  1. Justin Crane, PhD

As a doctoral researcher at Canada’s McMaster University Department of Kinesiology, Dr. Crane led a study (arranged by Dr. Melov) into the biochemical mechanisms of massage. With his colleagues, he showed that massage therapy reduced inflammation in young men with muscle damage caused by exercise.

More importantly, Dr. Crane’s team discovered why muscle injury patients benefitted from massage treatments on a cellular level. They found that massage therapy helps people with skeletal muscle injuries by:

  • Triggering mitochondrial biogenesis (cellular repair and growth)
  • Reducing inflammatory cytokines in muscle cells
  • Decreasing heat shock protein phosphorylation
  • Mitigating cellular stress from myofiber injuries

Dr. Crane currently studies the cellular biochemistry of aging at Boston’s Northeastern University. He focuses on the skin, muscle, and connective tissues targeted for healing by massage therapists.

  1. Simon Melov, PhD

Dr. Melov earned his doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of London. Before he and his colleagues founded the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in 1999, he worked at Emory University and the University of Colorado.

In collaboration with Dr. Crane’s McMaster research team, Dr. Melov and his colleague Alan Hubbard studied the cellular and biochemical foundations of massage for skeletal muscle patients. He highlighted massage therapy’s potential to reduce inflammation and promote healing as well as the possibility it could target the same cellular mechanisms as prescription painkillers.

  1. Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD

Dr. Tarnopolsky serves as the Director of McMaster University’s Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Clinic and the CEO of the Exerkine corporation. He has published over 390 scholarly articles in his quest to heal people with symptoms of neuromuscular ailments and aging.

As a professor at McMaster University’s Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, Dr. Tarnopolsky oversaw Dr. Crane’s study. He stated that massage therapy can benefit patients dealing with the effects of aging, musculoskeletal injuries, and inflammatory diseases.

  1. Adam Perlman, MD, MPH

Dr. Perlman, the Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine, works with students as an Associate Professor of Medicine. In addition to performing many leadership roles in the complementary therapy academic community, he continues to research the efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments.

Recently, Dr. Perlman received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Not only did his research team find that massage therapy decreased pain and increased range of motion, they also optimized the treatment protocol for this disease. They determined an hour of massage therapy each week was the best application of massage therapy treatments for OA patients.

A Wealth of Scientific Knowledge

Though countries like Russia have a long history of medical research into massage therapy, U.S. scientists have begun to close the gap. In recent decades, experts at many universities across the nation have dedicated their careers to proving the efficacy and multiple benefits of massage therapy.

Ask your physician how you can use massage therapy as part of your treatment plan. This popular complementary therapy offers pain relief, healing, and many other benefits, and it may ultimately reduce your need for prescription drugs.


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  2. Coleman, N. (n.d.). Why you could get alternative treatment on the NHS. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-55405/Why-alternative-treatment-NHS.html#top
  3. Duke Integrative Medicine. (n.d.). Adam Perlman, MD, MPH. Retrieved from https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/about/meet-the-team/adam-perlman-md-mph-facp-2/
  4. Field, T., Diego, M., & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2010). Preterm infant massage therapy research: a review. Infant behavior and development, 2010, 33(2), 115–124. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.12.004
  5. Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Deeds, O., & Figuereido, B. (2006). Moderate versus light pressure massage therapy leads to greater weight gain in preterm infants. Infant behavior and development, 29(4), 574–578. doi:  10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.07.011
  6. Field, T., Gonzalez, G., Diego, M., & Mindell, J. (2016). Mothers massaging their newborns with lotion versus no lotion enhances mothers’ and newborns’ sleep. Infant behavior and development, 45a, 31-37.
  7. Florida Atlantic University. (n.d.). Biography: Marlaine Smith. Retrieved from http://nursing.fau.edu/directory/smith/index.php
  8. McMaster University. (2012). Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation. Retrieved from https://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2012/massage_therapy_study.html
  9. Melov, S. (2013). Identifying molecular hallmarks of aging to guide the development of anti-aging therapies. Retrieved from http://www.buckinstitute.org/melovLab
  10. Crane, J., Ogborn, D., Cupido, C., Melov, S., Hubbard, A., Bourgeois, J., &
  11. Tarnopolsky, M. (2012). Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science translational medicine, 4(119).
  12. ResearchGate. (2015). Profile: Maria Hernandez-Reif. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maria_Hernandez-Reif
  13. Perlman, A., Ali A, Njike, V., Hom, D., Davidi, A., Gould-Fogerite, S., … Katz, D. (2012) Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS one, 7(2). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030248
  14. Science Daily. (2012). Massage reduces inflammation and promotes growth of new mitochondria following strenuous exercise, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201141710.htm
  15. Smith, M., Stallings, M., Mariner, S., & Burrall, M. (1999). Benefits of massage therapy for hospitalized patients: a descriptive and qualitative evaluation. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 5(4), 64-71.
  16. Smith, M., Kemp, J., Hemphill, L., & Vojir, C. (2002). Outcomes of therapeutic massage for hospitalized cancer patients. Journal of nursing scholarship, 34(3), 257-62.
  17. Touch Research Institute. (n.d.). History of the touch research institute. Retrieved from https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/About.html
  18. University of Miami. (2016). Research Profiles: Miguel A. Diego. Retrieved from https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/persons/miguel-a-diego/publications
  19. University of Miami Health System. (2017). Profile – Tiffany M. Field. Retrieved from http://uhealthsystem.com/researchers/profile/2581

How to Handle Online Business Reviews–Good, Bad, or Ugly

Part of managing a practice is knowing how to respond to feedback. It may be especially difficult to know how to respond to negative feedback delivered online.

Cultivating an online presence for your business has predictable pros and cons. Expanding any type of marketing can lead to dramatic improvements in the way your practice gets found and the number of potential clients who contact you. But an online presence can also result in more feedback than you’re used to–both positive and negative.

Sure, Miss Manners might advise visiting a business and offering complaints in person before jumping on the internet to register offense, but it’s increasingly clear her wise words often fall by the wayside. Though some may say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s important to know how to interact with your online audience to best serve your practice.

Why Respond at All?

Think about the last time you were researching a business online–a restaurant, for example. You might visit their website to check out the menu ahead of time or see their hours of operation, but you likely also want to know what other people are saying about the service, the food, the cost value, and more. You might have checked Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, or Better Business Bureau for reviews.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are not forming an overall impression of the business only by reading what previous patrons have to say; you are also looking for a professional response to these comments. If an employee of the establishment responded extremely defensively, blamed the patron in some way, or was otherwise rude in return, that would likely influence what you thought of the business.

Similarly, your opinion may be swayed if the company did not address any of the concerns logged by customers. You might wonder whether those issues have been addressed or whether the company cared at all about working to fix the problems mentioned. A simple acknowledgement of any comment demonstrates the business owner’s commitment to customer satisfaction. Even if the individual commenter never visits the establishment again, the interaction reflects positively on the business in the eyes of future visitors doing research.

Responding to Positive Comments

Taking compliments and kudos is the easy part of managing your online presence. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking kind words can simply be left alone; even a glowing review deserves a thoughtful response. People don’t often take to the internet to say something nice, so take the time to address individuals who verbally appreciate your services. “Thank you!” goes a long way on its own, but here are more ways you can acknowledge their gesture:

  • I’m honored by your kind words. Thank you!
  • It was a pleasure to meet you! I hope to see you again soon.
  • Please let me know if I can do any more to aid your healing.
  • I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better!

Addressing Negative Feedback

Receiving criticism can feel like a punch to the stomach–especially because the internet offers a special kind of anonymity people often feel comfortable using with abandon. The occasional bodywork session might go poorly, for whatever reason. Or, you may do everything right and feel a special rapport with a client, but that person still fixates on the one aspect of their experience beyond your control. Reclaim the interaction by recognizing the person’s opinion and graciously replying in the most appropriate way you can.

If something is particularly hurtful or damaging, or if it may endanger your practice altogether, some platforms do allow you to delete comments. However, remember word-of-mouth is powerful, and someone may feel emboldened enough by your attempts to eliminate the feedback to criticize further. In fact, it can reflect positively on your business if you’re willing to let negative reviews sit with your courteous responses to them.

When you first see a highly critical comment about you or your practice, take a deep breath. An emotionally charged response may be tinted with anger and less likely to reflect your true compassion and understanding. Put yourself in the commenter’s shoes and try your best to adopt their perspective. Rather than making excuses or going overboard to explain a backstory for the person’s complaints, make constructive suggestions and offer an apology, if appropriate. Thank them for offering their viewpoints, and focus on moving past the offense.

Some responses that may work:

  • I would love to speak with you personally about this experience. Please get in touch with me when it’s convenient for you.
  • The issues you mention are things I am actively working toward resolving. I appreciate your patience as this process happens.
  • I would never want a client to have the experience you mention. I hope you will let me remedy this situation and offer a better service in the future!

The way you respond to any commenter, critical or otherwise, can make more of an impact than the original post on visitors and potential clients who are researching your practice. Invest a bit of time in addressing any comments you receive, and your online presence will be better for it.


  • Martin, J. (2010). Complain in person before jumping online. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2010/2/28/complain-in-person-before-jumping-online

Why You Should List Your Massage Practice in an Online Directory

Listing your practice in an online directory like Massagetique can benefit you in many ways. It’s also likely to be simpler than developing your own website.

Like it or loathe it, the internet has brought communities closer together, made organizations far and wide more accessible, and brought information-sharing abilities to a new level. All of these can mean positive growth for your business, if you know how to use your online presence to your advantage. New to the world of online marketing altogether? Check out Massagetique’s free marketing guide for massage therapists to get started.

Part of your online marketing presence will probably be a website, another a Facebook page, another perhaps a listing with a generic directory such as Yellow Pages. In addition to your personal website and social media presence, it is in your best interests to strongly consider joining an online directory that specifically lists massage therapists and bodywork professionals. Directories like Massagetique can help you reach more people and grow your clientele, but they also provide vital business support in ways that aid all aspects of your practice.

More Visibility

Google processes billions of internet searches per day. In fact, approximately 40,000 searches are done every second. Furthermore, over a third of people look for businesses and retailers online. With so many people looking for information constantly and so much competition for ranking search results, how can you ensure your practice is found?

Online directories are a way of boosting your chances of being seen online. Search engines like Google prioritize sites with reliable content, high visitor counts, and a more established web presence. Directories, which tend to publish articles regularly and may be run by companies with the ability to invest in farther-reaching advertising efforts, have a distinct advantage in search engine ranking systems.

This means someone searching for “massage in Los Angeles, CA” is more likely to see a link to a directory than a link to your personal website. Plus, a ZIP code search through a directory like Massagetique will better direct potential clients to you if your office is located in a suburb or outside city limits.

Less Maintenance Than a Personal Website

Chances are, you probably don’t have an academic or professional background in web development or design. Though most websites make it easy for even those with no background in website management to set up and maintain a personal business site, it can still be tricky (and time-consuming) to establish an online presence with your own website. Marketing experts advise updating your site’s content often, engaging with visitors in a timely manner, and handling anything that goes technically awry. Even if you had the know-how to accomplish all these things on a regular basis, finding the time is another matter.

Listing in an online directory means being able to set up an inviting profile and leave it untouched for months and still see positive results. As you manage the day-to-day tasks associated with running your own business, a directory continues to improve its standing in search results, grow a social media presence, and help drive potential clients to your profile.

Cost-Effective Business Growth

Return on investment (ROI) is an understandable priority for business owners. You want to know the time and money you’re putting into a marketing strategy will yield the results you want in terms of client growth and retention. When it comes to finances, there is almost no reason not to list with a directory. Basic membership with Massagetique, for example, is free, so your only investment is the minimal amount of time it will take you to create a thoughtful, inviting profile.

In weighing directory options that cost money, consider how much you will make back if even one person begins to see you once a month for bodywork. A $30 per month membership fee, then, is worth it if one paying client pays twice that for a monthly massage session. And because word-of-mouth marketing is so effective for business owners, one paying client can easily lead to more.

One-Stop Resource for Your Clients

Many directories, including Massagetique, are constantly publishing news, information, and timeless resources that help people who are new to bodywork learn about different modalities and feel comfortable about the experience of receiving massage treatments. The more extensive these resources, the better chance potential clients will stumble across the content featured through a directory’s website and be moved to seek massage for themselves.

Articles highlighting the importance of massage for elders, for example, or detailing the benefits of bodywork for those with Alzheimer’s or depression, are all helping reach specific audiences that may not have considered massage therapy before. These resources are also an excellent way for you to connect with current clients by recommending reading and materials for self-care at home.

Even apart from the technical support, marketing wisdom, and visibility a directory offers, it’s worth trying a membership on a directory simply for the peace of mind that comes with knowing the bulk of your business marketing efforts are being handled. Learn how you can set up your listing today to start reaching more potential clients than ever.


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  4. Matista, S. (2016). How do customers find small businesses? Survey says…. Vistaprint. Retrieved from http://www.vistaprint.com/hub/digital/customers-find-small-businesses-survey-says-infographic/?GP=08%2f22%2f2017+15%3a12%3a42&GPS=4490686640&GNF=1

Massage Therapy and Your Recovery Treatment Plan

The physical healing applications of massage and bodywork are well known. Less known are the ways in which massage therapy can facilitate emotional healing.

Mental health treatment and healing take time, and often the process incorporates many modalities, not all of which are directly in the field of psychotherapy. During National Recovery Month, recognized in September, we take the opportunity to shine a light on less mainstream treatment options for recovery from trauma, addiction, and other mental health issues.

Massage therapy and other forms of bodywork are becoming more widely known for their ability to address concerns like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. But their use related to conditions that might call for extended treatment or rehabilitation has not been widely publicized. Further research supports incorporating bodywork into a mental health healing plan with a comprehensive psychotherapy program.

Before beginning any type of bodywork to address psychological concerns, it is best to meet with a mental health professional who will be overseeing the recovery process. Depending on the issue and the person’s history, bodywork may not be the most appropriate complementary therapy, or it may be advisable to wait until the individual is further into the recovery process to explore massage.

Massage Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Research shows bodywork helps reduce physical and emotional discomfort during the addiction recovery process in many ways. Some rehabilitation facilities and residential treatment centers employ massage therapists to aid clients on-site. Further, people who are trying to quit smoking can use self-massage to help reduce nicotine cravings. Co-occurring issues in the smoking cessation process, especially anxiety and mood issues, are also eased by touch therapy and massage.

Withdrawal can be an extremely painful experience, especially for people who have developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed the drugs for physical injury or pain. Massage can speed the detoxification process, lessen the risk of secondary health problems, and reduce the need for tranquilizers or other drugs to calm a client.

Bodywork also reduces the likelihood of relapse. The Mayo Clinic offers a program for pain management and reduction which takes a “biopsychosocial” approach to weaning opioid users off the medication and replacing it with holistic therapy options, including massage. The results have been very positive, significantly lessening clients’ needs for pain medication afterward.

Individuals currently using alcohol or other drugs, and those whose systems still contain them, are not advised to receive massage. In such instances it is likely the liver is already processing the substances and can become overwhelmed by toxins as bodywork begins to take effect.

Using Bodywork After Abuse or Trauma

A common effect of experiencing any type of physical trauma, including childhood abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault, among others, is an aversion to touch. Studies support the use of many different types of bodywork and holistic treatments for people who are comfortable or can work up to it. Even no-contact modalities like reiki, aromatherapy, and some types of hydrotherapy can be beneficial additions to a comprehensive mental health healing plan after abuse or trauma.

Though bodywork does have a direct positive correlation with improved mood and emotional stability, researchers say the more immediate effect of massage is a deeper connection with the self. After trauma, someone might begin dissociating or develop thought patterns of self-loathing and rejection of the self. Massage and bodywork can help bring awareness back to the body and one’s connection with it in constructive, nonjudgmental ways.

By addressing the physiological impacts after trauma, professional bodywork can help remove some of the emotional barriers to healing, such as pain and discomfort related to touch or another person’s proximity. In this way the therapy makes it possible for more psychological and emotional healing to take place and for clients to restore self-acceptance.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Massage

Common eating issues like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating can pose a number of health risks and may even be life-threatening. Treatment facilities and programs focus on helping someone ease back into a lifestyle that supports a healthy relationship between food and one’s body.

These changes may be minor at first but can still be extremely taxing on people whose systems are adjusting to eating in a different way. In some cases, eating issues lead to cardiovascular weakness or circulatory problems, and bodywork is not advisable if either condition is present. However, for anyone not experiencing these serious side effects, massage can be helpful in the early stages of recovery by improving digestion while the body heals.

A key part of moving past bulimia, bingeing, or anorexia is developing more positive body image and self-regard. Though much of this work is psychological, bodywork can be one factor that helps encourage better self-esteem. Studies show people are more able to accept themselves after receiving massage and experiencing the positive effects of increased serotonin and dopamine. In other words, when the body feels good, it’s easier to feel good about the body. With effective psychotherapy, bodywork can provide unexpected relief during the recovery process and offer hope for people in recovery and their families.


  1. Allison, N. (1999). The illustrated encyclopedia of body-mind disciplines, 163-165. New York City, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.
  2. Andrews, M. (2017). Holistic therapy programs may help pain sufferers ditch opioids. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/29/546145817/holistic-therapy-programs-may-help-pain-sufferers-ditch-opioids
  3. Beck, M. F. (2011). Theory & practice of therapeutic massage (5th ed.), 277. Clifton Park, NY: Milady.
  4. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-1413. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450590956459
  5. Hart, S., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Nearing, G., Shaw, S., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2001). Anorexia nervosa symptoms are reduced by massage therapy. Eating Disorders, 9(4), 289-299. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/106402601753454868
  6. Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., & Hart, S. (1999). Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Preventive Medicine, 28(1), 28-32. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743598903723
  7. Meeks, J. A. and Byrami, S. (2016). A systematic review of complimentary therapies to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress: Disorder in the aftermath of domestic abuse. Senior Honors Projects. 243. Retrieved from http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/honors201019/243
  8. Price, C. (2005). Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: An efficacy study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11(5), 46. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1933482
  9. Reader, M., Young, R., & Connor, J. P. (2005). Massage therapy improves the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 11(2), 311-313. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2005.11.311
  10. Werner, R. (2009). A massage therapist’s guide to pathology (4th ed.), 269-270. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  11. Ziegler, P. P. (2005). Addiction and the treatment of pain. Substance Use & Misuse, 40(13-14), 1945-1954. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10826080500294841

Why Am I Sore After a Massage?

Feeling sore after a massage? This could be normal but could also be cause for concern. Learn how to recognize any issues and address and prevent soreness here.

Massage, we know, is far more likely to reduce muscle soreness and tension than create it. But maybe you recently switched massage providers. Maybe you requested a particularly deep treatment. Maybe you were looking for a specific type of therapy after intense physical exercise. Later that day or the next morning, you realize … everything hurts.

Generally speaking, receiving massage therapy is unlikely to make you sore. There are few types of treatments designed to work deeply enough that muscles need to recuperate afterward. Still, there are some reasons massage could leave you sore, and you can do several things to guard against this experience in the future.

You’re an Athlete

Extremely active people may request different types of massage or bodywork that specifically support what they do. Sports massage and other services like ice baths are designed to increase circulation, accelerate healing, guard against stiffness, and more. Because intense exercise and athletics can be extraordinarily physically demanding, the maintenance and care that keep the body in top condition can also be demanding.

Sports massage therapists are more likely to use deeper pressure, especially on areas of high exertion. Massage also flushes out metabolic waste products generated during exercise, and these can irritate tissues. The body continues to process these toxins after massage, and this often registers as soreness. However, this is a completely healthy response to sports massage. In fact, it indicates the body is receiving the treatment well.

You Overestimated Your Tolerance

People new to massage and people seeing a new bodywork provider are more likely to misjudge their limit and less likely to speak up if they are uncomfortable. Whether they assume most massage will be feather-light and skin-deep, or whether they incorrectly believe massage treatment must be painful to be effective, many people insist they “like a lot of pressure” or want the therapist to “dig in.”

Neither of these requests, if they are truly your preference, is wrong or inappropriate. It’s helpful for massage therapists to have some idea of what clients are expecting from treatment and how to proceed. But if you realize you’re feeling more aches and pains after a massage as you were before the session, this may indicate the treatment was beyond your tolerance.

The Therapist Overestimated Your Tolerance

Bodywork professionals are trained to “read” tissues, paying special attention to resistance in the muscles and fascia and easing up when they feel tension. Usually, a massage therapist will work up to the allowance of your body, but not beyond. But if the therapist does not feel resistance, does not adjust accordingly, or works deeper before your body is open to it, tissues may sustain microtrauma that can result in later soreness.

Massage therapists generally are not interested in pushing limits, seeing how much clients can take, or in any way making treatment challenging. If the professional you see continues to misjudge your tolerance or push beyond a level you’re comfortable with, make sure they are aware of your unease, and consider finding a new therapist if soreness persists after your sessions.

You Forgot to Stretch Afterward

It’s not yet common knowledge that stretching after massage is a good practice, and massage therapists may not even recommend it after most treatments. While stretching is unlikely to completely guard against soreness after deep massage, it can go a long way toward retaining the effects of relaxation from your treatment. See our guide for simple stretches after massage to get you started.

What You Can Do About It

First, avoid the notions a good massage is meant to be painful or a massage should be deep to be effective. Even when massage doesn’t feel particularly forceful, the therapist may be working deeper than you think. Remember, the more relaxed you are, the less extreme a massage will feel.

Some people do prefer a treatment with deeper pressure or enjoy that “sweet spot” between pain and pleasure in a treatment. If this describes you, feel free to tell your massage therapist and continue to communicate throughout the treatment. Monitor any tension in your own body while breathing deeply; breathwork helps soften the tissues, allowing healing to take effect. Use an ice pack on specific areas of soreness later on.

Always check in during the session about your desired amount of pressure. You will not be judged on the type of pressure you want or enjoy; every body handles bodywork differently! If you do continue to experience soreness with a particular massage provider, that person’s services may simply be incompatible with your needs. Consider finding another therapist and experiencing something new.


  1. Moraska, A. (2005). Sports massage: A comprehensive review. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 45(3), 370.
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