You’ve just finished your first deep tissue massage and feel more relaxed than ever. Sure, you might feel a little sore for a while, but it’s a good kind of soreness.
The next morning, you hop out of bed and feel lighter than ever. Seriously, why haven’t you been doing this all this time? But as you disrobe and step into the shower, you notice that you have a few bruises dotted along your body.
Here you thought that a deep tissue massage tool would help improve your physical health— not worsen it!
Hundreds of questions start racing through your mind: is this normal? Should you be worried? Will this happen every time you get a deep tissue massage?
Take a breather because we’re going to put your mind at ease.
Is It Normal To Bruise After A Massage?
If you ask different people whether or not it’s normal to bruise after a deep tissue massage, you’ll get different answers. This is because the answer depends on the level of bruising, the tightness of your muscles, and pre-existing health conditions you might have.
So, is there a bottom line?
The thing is, many people have experienced post-massage bruising. So, in that sense, yes, bruises are a common side effect of deep tissue massage therapy.
However, bruising is not necessarily an indicator that the massage was successful. Thus, while it is common, bruising is something that massage therapists and clients alike try to avoid as much as possible.
Moreover, there is a fine line between harmless and harmful bruising. The best analogy to understand this is that of exercise.
When you start exercising after a long dormant period or when you push yourself too hard, your muscles become extremely sore. Over time, though, your body develops muscle memory and adapts to the exercise, so the post-workout soreness gradually dwindles.
Similarly, your first few times getting a deep tissue massage therapy can be traumatic for your body, which is why it might bruise a lot. Once again, though, you should stop bruising over time.
But when the problem persists, and you’re constantly in pain, that should tip you off that something is wrong.
What Causes Bruising From Deep Tissue Massage?
Generally speaking, bruises, also known as muscle contusions, are a form of your body’s trauma response.
Typically following an injury, the underlying muscle fibers and connective tissues become damaged. Subsequently, the blood vessels rupture and start bleeding out. But the skin on top is still intact, so the blood has nowhere to escape. Instead, it pools beneath your skin which appears black, blue, or purple.
So, does this mean that deep tissue massages are injuring you? Well, yes, and no.
The thing you need to understand is that deep tissue massages are intrinsically more intense than other forms of massage therapy— whether you use a deep tissue massage tool or go to a masseuse.
As the name suggests, deep tissue massage therapy targets the deeper layers of muscles where you develop muscle knots. Additionally, it aims at the fascia, which is the thin enclosure of connective tissue that holds your organs in place.
Hence, the tenderness and soreness that you seek to alleviate through a massage are not skin-deep but rather muscle-deep. You can imagine, then, that the masseuse will have to apply considerably more pressure to reach these sore and tender hotspots. While doing so, it is difficult to avoid damaging the blood vessels resting directly beneath your skin.
But this means that the bruising from deep tissue massages isn’t due to what we conventionally consider an injury. Instead, it is a possible side effect of treating muscle soreness.
How To Heal Bruising After A Deep Tissue Massage
Bruises typically begin to appear within the first 24 to 48 hours of getting a deep tissue massage. At this point, they’ll appear bright purple, blue, or black in color and won’t be too painful.
Over the next two weeks, the bruise will start changing color, which means that your body is reabsorbing the blood. At the end of two weeks, your bruise should be more or less healed.
But there might be times when the healing process takes much longer. At the same time, you could be experiencing more pain than usual. To deal with this, you could either:
- Apply an ice pack to the bruised skin at least once a day for two to three days. The ice pack reduces swelling by constricting the broken blood vessel. Thus, the bruise clears up quickly.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. This will help with your pain, but it could prolong the healing process, especially if the medication is a blood thinner.
You may also like: The Ultimate and Safe Guide to Muscle Percussion Therapy
How To Prevent Bruising From Deep Tissue Massage
Prevention is always better than cure. If you want to keep continuing your deep tissue massage treatments but can’t stand the bruising, don’t be discouraged!
Instead, you can take the following measures to make sure you fully enjoy all of your massage appointments hereafter.
1. Do A Background Check On Your Massage Therapist
If you have been bruising consistently after your massage sessions, the problem might be with your masseuse.
An expert masseuse will always be hyper-vigilant about the possibility of bruising, and they should keep you in the loop as well.
Moreover, a successful deep tissue massage session should always start slowly and gradually build up its intensity. By warming up your muscles first, your masseuse will ease them into the treatment, so they don’t experience sudden trauma.
So, by reading reviews and referring to other clients, you can know whether your masseuse follows these precautionary steps or not.
2. Do A Background Check On Yourself
In addition to reading up on your masseuse, you also need to check your own medical history.
Why? Because it is entirely possible that you have some underlying medical condition that makes you bruise easier than most.
Moreover, many medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, antibiotics, and blood thinners, will render you more vulnerable to bruising. Similarly, certain over-the-counter dietary supplements, such as ginkgo, ginseng, and garlic, can also double as blood thinners. This inhibits your blood’s ability to clot and avoid bruising.
Whether you’re going to a masseuse or using a deep tissue massage tool yourself, your medical history should be considered.
3. Keep Communications Open
Deep tissue massages are a game of call and response; your masseuse hits a pressure point, asks you if you feel pain, and you answer.
The most common way for massage therapists to do this is by referring to a pain scale (from one to ten) and determining your pain threshold.
Of course, this needs to be a two-way street.
Many people think that it’s rude to correct a masseuse on their techniques. But the truth is, they rely on your feedback to make it a pain-free experience for you.
4. Drink Plenty Of Water
Although not directly, deep tissue massages help regulate your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system itself is a part of your immune system, and it helps to flush toxins out of your body.
As deep tissue massages help untie the knots in your muscles, they simultaneously encourage the movement of lymph fluids around your body.
But there’s another thing that the lymphatic system needs: water— and lots of it.
Without plenty of water, your lymphatic system becomes clogged, leaving your body susceptible to easy bruising. Moreover, your impaired immune system takes longer to heal the bruises you may form.
5. Don’t Shower With Hot Water
Who doesn’t love to take a long, hot, steamy shower after a massage? If you’re nodding along, you probably don’t realize that you’ve been aggravating the problem.
The same goes for freezing cold water.
Instead, mildly warm water is good for encouraging blood flow which will prevent bruises from forming in the first place.
6. Avoid Strenuous Physical Activity
As we said before, a deep tissue massage is very intense. For the first few hours following the massage, your muscles are probably super worn-out and fatigued.
So, you need to let them rest until they regain their strength.
On the other hand, doing any strenuous physical activity, even if it’s lifting a few boxes, will definitely lead to injuries and bruising.
7. Use A Deep Tissue Massage Tool
If you learn how to use them correctly, a massage gun can fill in for your masseuse. With a deep tissue massage tool, you can take back the reins and have more control over the pressure based on your pain threshold.
After all, nobody knows your body better than you do.
It’s only a matter of learning how to use a massage gun effectively. Luckily, modern massage guns, such as the Exogun DreamPro Massager, are unbelievably easy to use. Not only can you control the speed and pressure, but you can also target muscles more accurately using the appropriate head attachments.
8. Try A Different Massage Technique
If all else fails, you can try a different, less intense massage technique. Keep in mind that a massage is supposed to relieve your pain, not cause it.
So, if you’ve tried everything to no avail, a deep tissue massage just might not be for you.
It can be a little unnerving to see bruises form on your body after a deep tissue massage. But rest assured, these bruises are all-too-common and usually don’t pose a threat.
Still, bruises can be annoying: they’re painful, and they take way too long to heal.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can address this problem. The most crucial thing is to keep communicating with your therapist. Or, if you’re using a deep tissue massage tool, you need to communicate with yourself, so you don’t overdo it.
Admittedly, it’s not like you’ll never get a bruise again. But the frequency of post-massage bruising will definitely go down.