Why am I sore the day after my massage?

People often wonder why they are sore the day after a massage, or a difficult workout. It is not uncommon to be more sore on the 2nd or even 3rd day after. The answer to both of these questions is a phenomenon called Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This soreness will often start to develop 6-8 hours post massage/workout and peak at 48-72 hours. When your muscles are worked, via deep tissue massage or exercise, they are experiencing microscopic tears and various ions and chemicals used to repair, build, and strengthen muscles start to build up. With exercise, the tears allow for muscle tissue to then repair themselves to stronger versions. The fluids buildup as the blood and lymph fluid bring to oxygen and food to the tissue to allow them to accomplish this. With a deep tissue massage the same type of thing is happening. Adhesions and trigger points are being broken up, lymph and built up lactic acid and various waste products are being cleared out of the tissue so repair can begin to take place. This can lead to soreness, especially if you haven’t been receiving body work regularly or the work was deeper than usual.  

In both cases the soreness can be a good sign that the body is working to heal itself. Stretching and staying hydrated can help to reduce the symptoms. Light exercise, such as walking, yoga, light jogging, can help after a day of intense exercise to keep everything moving.

A knowledgeable sports massage therapist can help with your recovery 2-3 days after a race or event and ease the symptoms of soreness. They will be able to help alleviate built up adhesions (knots) from stressed and strained muscles, tendons and fascia.

If you are often sore after massages, don’t let it stop you from getting massage, simply tell your sports massage therapist. They will be happy to adjust the pressure and style while suggesting tips for managing soreness in the future.

As always if you have any questions, feel free to call our office, or you can email me at karlee@massagehope.com 

Want more science? Here's a study from the Brittish Journal of Medicine on Massage and DOMS .