Once play begins, the massages start. Players can sign up for 30, 60 or 90 minutes of specific massage. If not scheduled for a massage session, massage therapists work in the training room doing spot treatments, warm ups or flushes, and even paperwork. It is not uncommon in the middle of the week to have a few days that go until 12:00 am or later. It is intense, but the days fly by and it is tremendously exciting.
This is not only an inaccurate and potentially harmful picture of this type of therapy, but such misguided practices can bruise muscles, elicit a defensive reaction in a client’s body, and worsen pain cycles. Properly executed deep tissue work should not cause the client to grit their teeth in agony as the therapist coerces the body into submission! If you find yourself clenching, shortening or holding your breath, or gritting your teeth, then it’s TOO DEEP. Even when it gets intense, it should not go above about a 7 on the pain scale: enough to “hurt so good,” but not enough that you want to leap off the table (and never come back).

For starters, you bear in mind the things described above that tend to cause ugly pain, and you avoid that kind of therapy like the plague. Then you look for some clues that painful pressure is okay. Here are at least three reasons why unpleasantly intense pressure might be therapeutic — “bad pain,” but not ugly. In each of these situations, it might be acceptable to tolerate sensations so intense and painful that the only thing about them that is pleasant is the part where it stops.

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The NCCIH adds that massage therapy may also be potentially harmful to women who are pregnant. Even though research has found that it offers this demographic some positive effects, such as decreased depression and anxiety and reduced leg and back pain, it is still important to obtain approval from her healthcare provider first to ensure that she can receive a safe sports massage.

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Chronic back pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) reports that 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, with is more than those afflicted with diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer combined. Additionally, back pain is the most common type of pain reported, accounting for 27 percent of all chronic pain cases. It is also the leading cause of disability in Americans who are 45-years-old or younger. Research has found that deep tissue massage can potentially help ease this pain, offering these individuals a chance at a higher quality of life.

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Empathy: Most people opt for massage therapy because they are in pain or because they are stressed out and need to calm down. As a massage therapist, it is imperative that you are empathetic to the needs of your clients, regardless of your day is going. If you appear or feel anxious or stressed, you are not going to be able to make your client feel calm and relaxed. Create trust with your patients by being personable and communicating effectively. Be receptive to their needs.

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A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point. If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.

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Somatoemotional release. Mental and emotional context is a major factor in how we experience pain. Painful sensations are unusually good at stimulating catharsis — the expression of strong or repressed emotion. — because physical pain often strongly “resonates” with emotional pain.12 For instance, the pain of an injury may blur together with the emotional frustrations of functional limits and rehab. That’s a basic example, and much more complex interactions between emotional and physical pain are obviously possible. Whether it is the clear goal of therapy, or simply a natural side benefit, experiencing very strong sensations can certainly be a meaningful part of a personal growth process “just” by changing your sense of yourself, how it feels to be in your skin, and perhaps bumping you out of some other sensory rut.13 

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For me, the opportunity to work with individuals who have such an awareness of their bodies is exceptional. You and the athlete are a team. Locating an area of dysfunction, aiding in the relief or facilitating improvement in the area, then watching the athlete go out and perform well is uplifting. The environment is charged. What’s more, learning from health care professionals while teaching them how massage fits into overall health and wellness is just plain awesome! 

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