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Bruising after deep tissue massage – what is acceptable?

Do you have to be bruised for a deep tissue massage to be effective?

By in Blog with 11 Comments


Have you ever been left with bruises after having a deep tissue massage or sports massage? And if so have you thought ‘well that must have done some good’. No pain without gain right?
In my opinion it’s wrong!
I accept there are some cases where some bruising is not avoidable due to medication such as blood thinning drugs that prevent clots, some cancer medication, steroids and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, however, in my opinion bruising is not the normal outcome of a deep tissue massage.


Bruises happen when small blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin are broken causing microscopic tears in them, this causes bleeding under the skin that then clots. Bruising typically occurs as a result of an injury to the area such as fall or bump. Some people do bruise more easily than others, especially as you get older as skin gets thinner and women are more prone to bruising than men.


If you have a deep tissue massage, or a sports massage, with me I will do my utmost best to make sure that you don’t bruise. I take a detailed medical history and I take into account your age and pain thresholds. I thoroughly warm up the muscles and fascia allowing the fibres to move and be manipulated allowing me to work deep into the underlying areas gradually without causing a trauma to the area, so not to cause bleeding under the skin and bruising. I always advise my clients that I work to a pain threshold of a level 7 on the pain scale, 10 being the highest and ask that they tell me if the pain level exceeds that. I keep checking in with my clients to make sure that they are comfortable and I look out for signs of tension. It has been proven that if the pain level goes above a 7 for a client they are likely to experience tension and stress, so instead of decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the system, a painful massage can increase it, restricting healing and leaving the client more tensed then before the massage.


I make every effort to make sure that you will get some relaxation and enjoyment from your massage with me. That is not to say that I will not work deeply and some of my work may be uncomfortable but I will keep it to levels that you can tolerate. I always include long gliding moves (effleurage) to help move toxins that I release from tense muscles into the circulatory system, aid lymphatic drainage and reduce stress. I have comprehensive training in various techniques such as soft tissues release (STR), myofascial release (connective tissue techniques) and muscle energy techniques (MET) –these techniques are explained in more detail here.
I use all or some of these techniques to adapt my treatment to you as an individual and to your unique case, to make sure you get the maximum benefit. You may still feel some soreness for a couple of days, you may even experience the healing response where you feel washed out and a bit worse initially (only lasts for a few hours) but ultimately you should get great results.


If you have tight muscles and are experiencing a lot of tension then a deep tissue massage is probably what you will need. However, I tailor all my massages to the individual and aim to meet my client’s needs so when booking a massage with me you do not need to worry if you have booked the correct type of massage. If, on talking to you and palpating your areas of concern I decide some deep tissue work is required I will let you know and explain what I will do. I will work deeply and in full communication with you to make sure that you are not uncomfortable. I always bring in a relaxation element as well, so even if some of my techniques have not been very comfortable you can rest assured that you will still experience the more pleasant side of massage as well.
My clients have reported great results and many continue with regular massages even after their initial problem has been sorted out, such is the pleasant and relaxing element of my deep tissue massages.

Claire Masser
SMT level 4. Mobile Massage Therapist.

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  1. Melissa says:

    Good post Claire ! I’m a licensed massage therapist I myself and I agree that deeper is not always better and can cause additional problems. People shouldn’t be bruised or overworked on. I too like to customize massages for our clients based on their answers to my questions. Thank you for sharing your information. 😁

    • Jorge Tasse says:

      I am a mobile massage therapist as Well And agree on not always more pressure means more benefits. Some of my new clients did not have a massage in years ,some of them never had one and their muscles are like rock. They might not preceive and react to deep tissue massage to those who come for treatment regularly

  2. Samantha says:

    Hi is it normal for a therapist to bruise you minutes after a massage I hold her to stop but she was practically push me down I was crying dnot was running and she didnt stop this was really put me going back I know swedish massage is ruff.but heck I felt as if my back was being broke she was a big lady to putting her wright high in her elbow she called me a wimp

    • Claire says:

      Hi Samantha, I am shocked to hear about your experience. Swedish Massage is normally a relaxing massage so I would not expect any bruising. In my opinion, a good therapist will work with the client’s own pain tolerances. If you go for a deep tissue or sports massage you will experience some discomfort but the pain should not be more that a 7 on a pain scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the highest. You may feel a little bit sore the following day, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t bruise unless there are other factors involved e.g medication etc. It is sad to think that you have been put off having a massage. All I can advise is that most massage therapists are excellent. So should you look to book another therapist ask them about bruising and pain during massage and find out where they stand on that issue before you book. All the best, Claire

  3. Jon Tibke says:

    Absolutely agree that bruising should not generally happen and you offer good guidance about how to avoid it. We really do need to keep fighting the ‘no pain no gain’ perception of sports massage.
    Not so sure about the release of toxins though. I know we are often taught this, but the science says that the lymphatic system and the kidneys do this. It may be the case that massage stimulates the lymphatic system to some extent. 

    • Claire says:

      Hi, Thanks for your comment! I understand what you are saying about the release of toxins and I think a simple explanation is that massage does stimulate the lymphatic system and massage helps move toxins into the that system, that is my understanding.

  4. This post is really appreciated.

  5. David Gibney says:

    Yes, your post is really helpful Claire. I am long distance triathlete and have experienced bruising almost immediately after a sports massage whilst home in Ireland visiting family for a few days. I never have bruising at the practice that I use in London. The massage I had with the chap in question certainly felt excessive and I won’t be back. I couldn’t agree more with everything you have outlined in your article and that is very much how the two sports masseurs that look after me in London go about their work. Nothing worse than feeling a little ‘stressed’ after a sports massage!  

    • Claire says:

      Hi David, thank you for your comment. I am sorry that you have experienced bruising after your treatment. I appreciate you sharing your experience in Ireland and thank you for taking the time to write your comment.

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