Dealing with Pain After Deep Tissue Massage

pain after deep tissue massage Physiotherapy in London

Massage is a rejuvenating and often relaxing experience… so, why might you experience pain after deep tissue massage sessions? This article covers why deep tissue massage may hurt, what to expect from the pain (both during the session and after), and aftercare tips from our expert massage therapists.

If you are interested in deep tissue massage, don’t forget to read our Deep Tissue Massage in London guide. Or you can reach out to one of our licensed physiotherapists and deep tissue massage experts for an initial assessment in one of our London clinics.

Deep Tissue Massage: Hurts So Good

A deep tissue massage is an intense manual massage of the muscles and connective tissues. Unlike a soft tissue massage (the kind you get during a spa day or for a Swedish-style massage), deep tissue massage penetrates the deepest layers of tissue.

The massage might involve:

  • Applying deep pressure and friction,
  • Stretching and twisting muscles to boost blood flow,
  • Working at knots and areas of tension.

Some techniques even involve pulling the muscles away from the tissue surrounding and supporting them. This is an intense massage, and you will certainly feel it.

The intensity of deep tissue massage is why it is so effective. It stimulates the muscles which helps to break down hard tissues (like scar tissue) and thus encourages the body to heal. Releasing tension and breaking down tissues like this also restores mobility. You can think of it like hitting the reset button on your muscles, returning you to your normal range of motion and ease.

Deep Tissue Massage Side Effects

One of the side effects of deep tissue massage is that it hurts. The pain isn’t unbearable, however. At One Body, our customers describe it as “a good kind of pain” that’s almost like a relief. For comparison, think of releasing a tight ponytail, picking a scab, or cracking your knuckles – it’s painful in a way that is also a very satisfying release. 

Besides soreness that lasts a few days, there are very few side effects to deep tissue massage. Furthermore, it is considered a safe practice for most people with just a few exceptions:

  • Those on blood thinners or with a bleeding disorder should talk to a doctor before booking deep tissue massage,
  • Anyone with weak bones (e.g. from cancer or osteoporosis) will need to avoid the intense pressure of a deep tissue massage,
  • Pregnant women may also be better suited to a soft tissue massage or Swedish massage – we offer these massages at One Body as a great way to relieve pre- and post-natal soreness, stress and tension.

The pain you feel after a deep tissue massage is more akin to muscle soreness. Depending on whether you received a full-body deep tissue massage or a targeted treatment, you might be sore all over. This is more intense than standard Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) from a hard workout, but it shouldn’t last more than three days or significantly disrupt your day-to-day life. The more frequently you receive deep tissue massages, the better your body will adjust and lessen the post-massage soreness.

Why You Are Sore After a Deep Tissue Massage

Soreness after an intense workout is caused by acid that builds up in your muscles as a result of muscular metabolism (not lactic acid, as many people believe). While that may feel similar to the soreness you get after a deep tissue massage, it’s not the same cause.

The day or two of soreness after a deep tissue massage is caused by:

  • Breaking down hard tissues and fibres in the muscles,
  • Focusing hard on one particular area (working out knots),
  • Short-term inflammation as the muscles begin to heal,
  • Dehydration can exacerbate muscle soreness.

How sore you will feel also depends on your general sensitivity. If you are worried about the pain during a deep tissue massage or the lingering soreness after, talk to your massage therapist. You should choose a professional therapist whom you can trust to talk through your medical concerns, injuries and areas of tension, so they can tailor the massage to your condition and ensure it is a rejuvenating experience.

You can browse our therapists’ qualifications, experiences and credentials at One Body here, so you can choose the perfect match for your deep tissue massage.

What to Do After a Deep Tissue Massage

Your massage therapist should give you some advice on how to avoid pain after deep tissue massage sessions. Generally, this involves rehydrating, taking it easy, and moving mindfully in the future.

For most people, the soreness fades after a few hours or a day. However, if your soreness lasts for more than three days with no signs of easing up, you should contact your massage therapist straight away.

1. Eat and Drink Mindfully

Deep tissue massage can be used to reduce inflammation, promote blood flow, and encourage toxins or acids to release from your muscles. This means your kidneys will be working a little harder than usual to process and remove toxins from your body.

To help your kidneys and speed up recovery, hydrate well with water and eat nutritious healthy meals. Adding electrolytes to your water is great, but don’t go overboard with sugary drinks and heavy foods. Likewise, give your nervous system a break from caffeine and your kidneys a break from alcohol for a day or two. 

2. Relax and Stretch

After a deep tissue massage, you need to relax. Don’t hit the gym or go for a jog. Instead, go home or back to your desk and take it slow. After your massage, you may naturally feel more relaxed and calm, so you could also ride that wave with meditation and deep breathing practices.

If sitting down starts to feel uncomfortable, try some slow and gentle stretches. You can hold yoga poses for 30 seconds – this will get your blood flowing and relieve some soreness. But remember, this isn’t the time for pushing the boundaries and working on your flexibility. Listen to your body!

While taking a very hot bath or shower right after your massage isn’t the best advice, you may find that a warm bath in the evening or the next day can soothe some of the soreness. Adding Epsom salts or magnesium to your bath can further relax your muscles and promote healing.

3. Focus on Posture and Movement

A deep tissue massage can be a “reset” for your body, so don’t immediately go back to slouching or sitting in an unhealthy position. If you had a deep tissue massage to resolve pain or as part of a sports injury treatment, you should also avoid the cause of the pain or injury (e.g. not practising proper form during a workout).

Talk to your deep tissue massage therapist or see a physiotherapist if you need advice on healing after a sports injury or preventing future injuries. At One Body, our therapists provide not just a massage but also a range of other therapies, including exercise therapy and strength training/conditioning. 

discussing deep tissue massage aftercare Physiotherapy in London

Deep Tissue Massage at One Body

For the best deep tissue massage experience, we always recommend going to a clinic. Compared to at-home visits, clinics offer a very professional and calming environment that enhances relaxation – it allows you to take a break from your usual routine and relax under the capable hands of a professional massage therapist.

You can visit One Body at any of our London-based clinics which are centrally located with great transport links, so it’s easy to drop by on your lunch break or get home after a really thorough massage. You can find us at London Bridge, Old Street, or Farringdon, and choose from 30-minute, 60-minute and 90-minute sessions.

To book a deep tissue massage session in one of our award-winning London clinics and receive personalised advice on your recovery, explore our Sports Massage services today.


Is deep tissue massage painful?

Deep tissue massage is intense and sometimes painful. It’s not dissimilar to other kinds of “good” pain, like eating very spicy food, releasing a tight ponytail, or cracking your knuckles. The pain and soreness that comes after a deep tissue massage is just like the muscle soreness you’ll get after an intense workout. It’s nothing you cannot manage!

How long does the pain last?

The pain of a deep tissue massage will last a few days at most. Like sore muscles after a workout, the pain will gradually lessen over time too. Rest during this period and once the pain fades, you should experience the benefits of deep tissue massage from better sleep to enhanced mobility.

What not to do after a deep tissue massage?

Don’t put stress on your body – this means avoiding tasks that cause physical stress, like a workout. You should also avoid alcohol, coffee and large meals. Go home instead, hydrate with water, eat simple nutritious meals, and avoid exercise until your pain and soreness are fully healed.

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