Why do Muscles Burn During Massage?

Most clients start feeling massage effects right in the room. Some clients, however, want to know why their muscles burn during a massage.

Why do muscles burn during a massage? Muscles burn because of the accumulation of waste in their cells. These waste products are produced as a result of massaging the muscles.

What Do Muscles Release During Massage? In this article, you will learn:

  • What a massage does to muscle tissues.
  • The waste products muscles release during the massage.
  • How to reduce cramps and other unpleasant side effects during a massage.

What do Muscles Release During Massage?

During a massage, muscles release lactate, a byproduct of glucose. The effects of deep tissue massage on muscles are almost the same as the effects of exercise.

During the massage, the demand for oxygen in these tissues increases. Because of this, blood flow to these tissues increases. This is necessary to supply oxygen and glucose. It also excretes waste substances like lactate.

Most times, a massage session is so intense that the muscles can’t quickly clear out lactate. It is the accumulation of lactate that causes the burning sensation.

Experiencing muscle burn during massage differs from one client to the other. Some clients don’t feel it at all. Some describe it as a reasonably tolerable pinch, while some find it unbearable.

Here are factors that determine how clients interpret muscle burn during massage:


If you are dehydrated before a massage, having a severe muscle burn is high. You run the risk of experiencing muscle cramps. Muscle tissues should be pliable and agile and respond well to stretch. If you are dehydrated, your blood flow is sluggish.

Your muscles don’t get enough glucose. They don’t clear out the waste substances fast enough.

You should drink at least 2-3 glasses of water before a massage session. If you feel thirsty during the session, take a water break.

Most therapists offer you water after the session. We encourage you to drink all the water provided. Your body will thank you for it.

Frequency of massage

Is first time having a deep tissue massage? It’s like your first time trying out a new exercise program. You will feel sore during the massage and some days after.

Your muscles are not used to stretching and working that hard, so they have to adapt to the new demand quickly. Capillaries have to widen up to receive more oxygen and excrete waste. Even your nerve endings have to adapt to the changes too.

We always encourage consistency amongst our first-timers. This consistency helps their body quickly adapt to the changes. It also allows them to move past the burn and enjoy the other benefits of a deep tissue massage.

Clients with frequent massage sessions hardly ever complain of muscle burn. This is because their bodies are already used to the demand and know how to use oxygen to burn energy.


Older people are at risk of experiencing muscle burn. Their muscles, tendons, and joints aren’t as supple and agile as before. They run the risk of dehydration and nutrition deficiencies. Even worse, they most times have underlying musculoskeletal conditions.

Physical activity

Your muscles have formed a lot of mitochondria, a cell component that is good at using up oxygen. Apart from mitochondria, your muscles are more prominent and can handle the heat. If you are active, the risks of having muscle burn are less.

Myofascial Release

If you are receiving a massage for a musculoskeletal injury, a muscle burn may be from myofascial release. During muscle healing, there is a lot of swelling. This inflammation causes an accumulation of fluids and white blood cells. There is also an accumulation of inflammatory cells.

If a massage and other physical therapy aren’t commenced early enough, there can be fibrosis. This inflammatory response can cause fascia and muscle fibers to matt together. There can also be joint stiffness and contractures.

The therapist uses percussion techniques to release these matted adhesions during a deep tissue massage. Pressure is also used. All these can cause muscle burn.


You now know that your muscles’ demand for oxygen increases in a deep tissue massage. The need for glucose also increases. If you have a massage session with depleted glucose stores, you can experience unpleasantness.

What happens if there is not enough glucose? Your muscles tire out and fatigue. Ensure you are fueled up the proper way before an intense massage session. Read this article to know how to fuel up properly for a massage.

Underlying medical conditions

Underlying musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis and fractures can increase your risk of muscle burn. They also increase the risk for spasms and cramps.

This also goes for inflammatory conditions like tendonitis. Therapists often take their time to evaluate clients with these conditions. They want to ensure that they are fit for massage sessions.

Mental Health

Stress, anxiety, and depression can make a massage session more painful than it is. We call this psychosomatic pain.

At our facility, we take time to assess the mental state of all our clients. We also try to identify options to keep them relaxed. For example, using aromatic essential oils helps some clients relax and de-stress.

How to Relieve Muscle Burn after a Massage

Some people feel the burn after the massage session, which can last for days.

Here are a few tips that can help:

Drink up

Drink a lot of water after the session is over. You shouldn’t scrimp on water. Water keeps you hydrated and maintains a good circulation for excreting waste products.

Remember to avoid drinks like coffee and alcohol. These drinks make you pee a lot; they increase the osmolality of your blood and dehydrate you. It also feeds your muscle cells with the proper nutrients and oxygen.

Essential oils

Essential oils like peppermint oil not only relax your mind. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help with muscle burn and soreness.

After a massage session, you can rub some peppermint oil or CBD oil on the sore parts to get quick relief.

Herbal remedies

there are herbal remedies that increase your blood circulation. They also reduce pain and swelling. Good examples are ginger, garlic, cloves, and cinnamon. Taking these herbs as teas or tinctures can go a long way.

OTC analgesics

OTC analgesics like paracetamol and acetaminophen are great remedies for muscle soreness. However, be sure to inform your primary care provider before purchasing. This is particularly important for clients on drugs for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.


stretching before and after a massage session can relieve muscle soreness. Stretching exercises increase blood flow to your muscles. It also stimulates the release of lubricant (synovial fluid) around the joints.

Apply Ice

Cold therapy like ice bags and ice compression reduces muscle burn. It also reduces muscle soreness and inflammation.


Above all, get as much sleep as you can after a massage session. Your body knows how to restore itself if you let it. As you sleep, the body reduces the secretion of cortisol, a primary stress hormone.

It also increases the stimulation of hormones with vital functions and abilities. Also, the antioxidative cascade kicks in to scavenge free radicals.

Now its time to hear from you:

Now that you know why your muscle burns during a massage, what prevention tip will you use for your next massage?

We can’t wait to read your comments below.

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