"Just don't make me scream..." or "Do what you have to do. I can take it..." are things I hear VERY often as a massage therapist.
Different types of pain
It may actually be a little bit confusing because some types of 'pain' can be useful when getting bodywork done, and other types are just downright painful, and can be harmful. It's a part of every person's process to become aware of their bodies and learn to tell the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain." Bad pain can actually be damaging and so I never ever want to do that to you, and I will try my best to keep that from happening.
How to tell the difference? Usually good pain feels good somehow. That "hurts so good" feeling. I don't know how to decribe it much better than that. I can tell you what it's not by explaining bad pain.
Bad pain is the kind you have to endure. It's when something hurts and you really want it to stop but you think, "I should take this. It must be good for me." A dead give away for bad pain is when you feel yourself trying to manage the experience somehow. Either by clenching your fists, or pressing down against the table, or clenching your jaw. It usually involves tightening muscles somewhere else in the body, or even in that same spot. It's the body's defenses going up. When the body feels damage is possible, it will try to prevent it. By tightening the muscles that's being pressed on, it pushes the therapists fingers out and creates a kind of armor that can't be hurt.
This is counterproductive on so many levels. Why blast through the body's natural defenses to essentially beat the tension out of you? We're trying to create peace in the body and doing violence and pain to the body will not create peace.
You can also manage the pain by thinking about something else, or starting to talk about stuff you don't really care about just to distract yourself. This is dissociating from the body and it's probably what caused you to be in pain in the first place. When we don't listen to our body's messages and keep doing detrimental stuff anyway, tension and pain often result. Listen to your body. Treat yourself with the gentleness that you treat others with.
None of this means that the massage and bodywork won't be deep and effective. To work at the maximum efficiency it should be strong enough that you know that if I were to go just a little bit harder, it would be too much. I call this, "Riding the edge." We're working at a level of pressure that is engaging, feels intense yet still enjoyable. Once you start suffering, it's too much.
What if I don't want to feel any pain, good or bad?
Then please communicate that with me and I'd be happy to accomodate you. You may just want light swedish relaxation massage. I think that has great therapeutic value as well and I'd love to do that.
I also find that very often when someone tells me they want very light massage and no pain, they still want medium to deep work. Sometimes I think the language is just a little different. Some people don't call it pain unless it really, actually hurts. When muscles which are tight are worked relatively deeply it almost ALWAYS feels good. They release, no sharp, hurting pain is felt, and the client is happy afterwards.
This is another class of pain which is different from pain pain. This happens when a trigger point is stimulated and the pain actually travels to another part of the body. One common example is when the shoulder or neck muscles are worked on a pain is felt in the head. I personally experience this pain as feeling good. I know that it means my tight spots are being accessed and it feels like a release to me. Other people experience it as being hard to tolerate because it sometimes feels sharp. It's very rare that this kind of pain could be causing damage.
The level of intensity you experience during a massage is totally up to you. I always want to communicate with the person I'm working with. When you're recieving a massage you don't have to be a passive spectator. If you actively engage in the process, breathing deeply to help release tight muscles that are being worked on, and giving valuable feedback to your therapist about what feels good and what doesn't, the benefits you recieve from massage will go way up.