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Post-Massage Soreness and Malaise: What Is PMSM?

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Massage

There are many scientifically proven benefits of massage therapy. Ideally, after any massage session, you’ll walk away feeling lighter, happier, and totally refreshed.

But what if that’s not the case? What if, for a few hours (or even a few days) after your massage, you actually feel worse? Did your massage therapist do something wrong?

Chances are, what you’re experiencing is Post-Massage Soreness and Malaise, or PMSM for short. It’s more common than you’d think, especially after intense, deep-tissue bodywork.

In this post, we’ll dive into this common phenomenon to explain what it is, what it isn’t, and why you shouldn’t feel worried about it. Keep reading below!

What Is Post-Massage Soreness and Malaise?

PMSM refers to discomfort, fatigue, and soreness you might experience after a massage therapy session.

While massages aim to alleviate tension and promote relaxation, some of us might feel just the opposite. We may feel sore and achy. We might develop a pounding headache. We might even experience full-blown flu symptoms.

Understandably, this reaction can leave us feeling puzzled. Did we get a “bad” massage? Did we fail to drink enough water after our session? Aren’t we always supposed to feel amazing afterward?

To answer those questions, let’s consider a more commonly known condition — DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness — and see if there’s a connection.

PMSM vs DOMS: Similarities and Differences

If you’ve ever felt sore after a hard workout or a long day of skiing, you know exactly what DOMS is.

Typically, DOMS manifests 24-72 hours after strenuous physical activity. It’s characterized by muscle pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. This is due to microscopic damage to muscle fibers during intense exercise, which triggers an inflammatory response.

You’re most likely to experience DOMS after an unusually intense workout or if you perform other repetitive movements that your body isn’t used to. This causes a temporary physical disruption to your muscle cells, which your body repairs over the next few days.

So, what does this have to do with PMSM?

Although the causes are different — DOMS results from intense activity, while PMSM results from intense bodywork — the physiology is very similar.

Deep tissue massage and similar types of bodywork cause a temporary “disruption” to normal soft tissue function. Massage strokes push blood, lymph, and interstitial fluids through the muscles at an accelerated rate. Your muscles might also be stretched and manipulated in ways they don’t typically move during your daily activities.

As a result, these tissues need time to recover — just like they do after any intense physical activity.

Can I Avoid PMSM?

PMSM may not be pleasant, but it is a normal reaction to deeper types of massage and bodywork. To minimize its effects, consider the following tips:

  • Communicate with your therapist throughout the massage. Always speak up if the pressure becomes too intense (“No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply here — a massage should never feel unbearably painful).
  • Do some gentle stretching, avoid hard physical activity, and take a warm Epsom salt bath (or soak in a hot tub) after your massage session.
  • There’s no need to overhydrate, but do make sure to drink enough water before and after your massage session.
  • If you experience moderate or severe PMSM symptoms, consider trying a gentler type of bodywork next time (i.e., Swedish massage)

You may not be able to avoid PMSM altogether, especially if you request very deep pressure. If you do experience symptoms, keep in mind that it’s a normal physiological response and you’ll feel better within a few days.

Are you ready for your next massage at our beautiful studio in Avon, Colorado? Book your session here or give us a call at 970-748-1600.