Why Are You Usually Sore After A Massage?

We often associate massages with reducing muscle soreness. But sometimes the massage itself can cause unwanted pain.

Aches and pains may strike a few hours later, or the morning after your massage. Possible causes of this muscle tension could be one of the following factors.

Related: Allergy Relief With Massage Therapy

What is post-massage soreness?

Post-massage muscle soreness often occurs after an intense massage session. After the massage session, a client might experience pain and soreness. This might occur immediately after, or even the following day. The muscle aches can last for a couple of hours or days, depending on the type of massage and the intensity. It’s also how your body reacts and how well the massaged was handled. 

The most common type of person that gets post-massage soreness is someone new to the massage parlor. They are inexperienced in regards to what kind of massage to get and they do not know how to communicate correctly with the masseuse. In addition to that, people who often get a sports massage experience pain after a session. That’s because a targeted massage works against the muscular restriction and sometimes hurts a little more before it gets better. Usually, these treatments are implemented to reset the muscle state and to restore relaxation, movement, and ease.

There are various causes of muscle soreness after a massage, and fortunately, there are also ways to treat and prevent this issue.

You’re Athletic

Because intense exercise can be physically demanding, you may require deeper pressure, especially in areas of high exertion. Though these massages increase circulation, accelerate healing and prevent stiffness, they also remove metabolic toxins created during exercise that can irritate tissues. Your body will continue to process these toxins after a massage and can register this as soreness. However, keep in mind that this is a positive response — it tells you your body is receiving the treatment well.

Check out the Abacus, a self-massage tool that can also provide deep pressure - great for golfers, tennis players, and other athletes.

You’ve Misjudged Your Tolerance

Clients new to massage therapy or seeing a new massage therapist are more likely to overestimate their limitations and less likely to say anything if they feel uncomfortable. If you find that you’re feeling more pain after a session than you were before it, this may be the reason.

Your Massage Therapist Overestimated Your Tolerance

Massage therapists are professionally trained to understand tissue issues and pay close attention to resistance in muscles and fascia. Massage therapists will ease up when they feel tension. However, if the therapist doesn’t feel resistance and doesn’t adjust accordingly, he or she may add more pressure causing tissues to sustain microtrauma, which will result in soreness.

You Didn’t Stretch Afterward

Though stretching post-massage can’t completely prevent soreness after a deep massage, it can decrease the aches you feel afterward.

Dehydration and loss of electrolytes

When you get a massage, the movement of muscles can flush the water out of the tissue and into the kidney. This is an excellent way to eliminate nitrogenous waste. After a massage, it is common to feel dehydrated because a lot of water has been filtered and flush out of your kidneys. As a result, you are more likely to rush to the bathroom to urinate. This is why a lot of massage therapists often recommend that clients drink plenty of water to rehydrate after the massage session. The lack of rehydration might lead to a buildup of acid in the muscle. This is mainly because there are still some toxins in the muscles that require extra water to flush out. 

Another issue with massages is that it can impact your electrolytes, including your potassium levels. Low potassium levels can lead to soreness, which is why it’s best not only to rehydrate but to also replenish your electrolytes as well. You can eat a banana or drink Gatorade to help you to recover.

Lack of communication

Sometimes people can be shy and keep their mouth shut during a massage session. This might not be a good idea, however, because the lack of communication will lead to muscle soreness after the massage session. It’s possible that the masseuse is maneuvering certain muscle regions the wrong way or applies pressure to an area that is painful to you without knowing. If you don’t speak up, the therapist will continue to work on specific muscle parts, which can lead to constant pain and agony. After the massage session, this lack of communication will cause you further suffering.

Waiting until you are too sore

If you wait until you are extremely sore to get a massage, then that can be an issue. This is mainly because sore muscles tend to be very stiff. When the therapist applies extra pressure to stiff muscles, it creates resistance that can further aggravate muscle pain. This can lead to more pain and soreness after the massage. It’s vital to get a massage when you feel a slight symptom. Massages play a significant role in healing and alleviating muscle tension. It can help speed up the recovery duration for sore muscles with minimum or medium intensity. Unfortunately, with high-intensity soreness, it may be counterproductive.

Not going to a licensed massage therapist

If you decided to save money and have a friend or significant other give you a massage, then that might not be a good idea. A licensed massage therapist has gone through proper training and education to utilize the proper techniques safely and effectively. Inexperience massage personnel may not use the right method and can cause muscle pain and soreness if they are not careful. Sometimes, if a massage is too strong and intense, it can harm the individual leading to a trip to the hospital.

Not relaxed enough

This is a common issue for first-time massage clients. If this is your first time getting a massage, it’s essential to relax your muscles. If you keep tensing up, you create resistance between the pressure applied by the therapist and the tensed muscles. This is why tensing up can lead to stiffness and soreness after the massage session. It might be difficult at first, but the most advisable course of action is to ask the massage therapist to go easy on you. For beginners, it’s always best to start with something light and slowly ease your way up to something deeper and intense. If you prefer to keep it light, then definitely communicate your preference with the masseuse.

To help with your relaxation routine, try out compression massage with your Abacus®, keeping in mind to start slowly and not to overdo it.

Types of massage that can cause soreness

Another issue that massage beginners often go through is picking something intense right off the back. We have listed examples of massages that are very strong and intense that it could lead to soreness after the massage session.



Deep tissue massage

A deep tissue massage focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It’s beneficial for chronic stiffness and aches in the upper and lower back, as well as sore shoulders and tight muscles. It’s designed to get rid of knots to improve circulation. The movement of this massage tends to be slower, but with deeper pressure and concentrated on locations with high levels of pain. The idea of this technique is to reach the sub-layer and facia to alleviate the stress.

This type of massage emphasizes getting rid of adhesion, or rigid tension in the tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Adhesions can block circulation to limit movement, cause pain, and increase inflammation. Fortunately, the deep tissue massage gets rid of adhesion, which results in improved circulation and promoted flexibility and movement. Often, at some point during the massage, people find themselves in pain and discomfort. This is why it’s vital to communicate with a therapist to change their method or lighten up. The stiffness and pain usually occur after the massage but will go away in a couple of days. The best advice would be to apply ice to the massage area for comfort.

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Thai massage

A Thai massage is like doing yoga with your masseuse. Before going in there for the session, you’ll be given a set of clothes to change into. During the massage session, you will be pulled, stretched, and rocked back-and-forth. The goal is to use every part of your body to stretch at maximum intensity. It is different from a regular massage because you’re not being kneaded, and the massage is not gentle.

If you are a beginner, a Thai massage can be a very unpleasant experience. If you are not used to this type of massage, you will feel extreme pain and soreness afterward. The masseuse will try to make it less intense depending on the person‘s preference, but it’s still not recommended for beginners.


This is a form of Japanese massage where a female masseuse will stand on top of your back while holding onto a rail. The purpose of the massage is to apply pressure to various parts of the back. 

This barefoot massage helps deliver a deep, consistent, and broad pressure utilizing the feet and body weight. The parallel bars are used for balance and support.  The main objective of the massage is to work with gravity to provide pressure on the affected area of the back. 

This massage is an acquired taste. Not everyone can handle it. If you are a beginner, definitely work yourself up to this type of massage. For an inexperienced person or someone who is not used to extreme pressure,  you will experience pain and soreness after the session. 

How to treat post-massage soreness

If you experience severe pain and soreness after a massage, there are some strategies that you can take. You can take a hot bath with Epsom salt to further soothe and relax your muscles. It’s essential to avoid exercising or carrying anything heavy; you want to rest at this point. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins to mitigate the post-massage soreness. If the pain persists, you can use painkillers to help your brain releases chemical signals to minimize the pain. You can also go to the local drugstore to purchase a heating pad to stick to your back.


How to prevent post-massage soreness

The best way to avoid post-massage soreness is to drink plenty of water after the massage session and to communicate efficiently with your masseuse. If you feel a particular technique or pressure is too much, let the masseuse know so he or she can decrease the weight. It’s also advisable for beginner clients to avoid certain types of massage that emit high-intensity pressure such as deep tissue massage, Thai massage, and Ashiatsu. 

With all these prevention strategies, you are on your way to reaping the health benefit of the massage minus the pain and soreness.

The Gelliflex® Abacus® Provides Some Relief

The Gelliflex® Abacus® is a gel-ball self-massage device designed for relief from finger/hand/arm aches and pains caused by overuse or repetitive activity. As part of your regular massage routine, you can use the Abacus to provide relief from aches and pains.

Related: 4 Reasons Why The Gelliflex® Abacus® is the Perfect Holiday Gift