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  • Writer's pictureDelaney Farmer, LAT, LMT

Sports Massage - Hurts so good?

Getting a sports massage – will it hurt? Is it one of those “No pain no gain” type of sessions?

First of all, sports massage may not be your typical relaxation session. In a sports massage session, a variety of different techniques and tools may or may not be used. Stretching, scrapping, percussion, cupping, deep work or light work are all possibilities at the disposal for the therapist. Depending on the therapist and their background of knowledge, each type could be a little different. But sports massage is an umbrella term for utilizing multiple techniques with a clear therapeutic outcome in mind and generally is for the active individual.

Oils, lotions, creams may be used or may not. You may be underneath the sheets or in athletic wear on top of the sheets. It really depends on what needs to be worked on.

Clients may come to get a sports massage to increase flexibility, to reduce or eliminate pain from an overused body mechanic (running, swimming, swinging), repetitive motion leading to tightness and or injury. Clients may come in to maintain the progress they have achieve in their workout levels and want to stay loose and pain free or others may just be starting out on a athletic goal (running their first marathon) and want to recover quicker from their long run so they can get back out pushing their body’s to their limits.

As I explain to my clients, there can be a level of discomfort as I joke around, this isn’t a spa. But again, I don’t want the client to want to squirm off the table either. Communication must be between both the client and therapist when treatment is happening. If it hurts to much and your in pain, your just going to tighten up and fight the treatment. The therapist also must be aware that everyone’s pain tolerance is different so a discomfort level of 6 on one person could be a 8 one on client or a 3.

More bodywork you receive, the tissue/body will become more use to the treatment and will start to become less sore. Therefore those who though cupping was discomforting at first, may find it oddly relaxing after several sessions.

If your tight and your getting stretched, there could be some slight discomfort. If you’re not use to cupping, it could feel slightly painful when getting cupped. Deep pressure to work on the deeper muscles may or may not create discomfort. So many factors come into play. Injury, overuse, last time that body part got worked on, pain tolerance, communication factors between client and therapist.

Some people state they were sore the next day but felt great the following day after. This can be expected. Sometimes changing the structure of the tissue, body can create irritation in the body (just like working out – work out hard and the next two days you are sore).

If you are in good communication with the therapist, you receive continuous treatments then the outcome should be good without pain.

Delaney Farmer, LAT, LMT, ATC is a Licensed Athletic Trainer and Licensed Massage Therapist who owns his own business, PRM Sports Therapy in Bellevue, WA. Delaney has been practicing massage since 1998 and as an Athletic Trainer since 2008.

You can reach him at:



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