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Miserable Massage

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Getting a massage is supposed to be a positive experience. It can relieve stress, relax your muscles, and even fix chronic pain. However, there's a tendency in fiction for massages to be anything but relaxing; they're agonizing experiences, as the character on the table just gets beaten, pounded, and generally abused while they can do nothing but groan and take it.

Their massage therapist will often be a Battleaxe Nurse or Brawn Hilda, but this sort of massage can come just as easily from not-as-strong amateurs. In fact, sometimes it's a character's friend genuinely trying to give them a good experience- the hilarity in this case comes partially from the fact that a character is inadvertently causing their friends pain without realizing it. Another common scenario is for two characters to get a massage, with the duo's Butt-Monkey winding up in this situation to contrast the luckier character's relaxing time.


This can be Truth in Television, as certain types of massages can be painful; however, in fiction, the agony is exaggerated, and the benefit minimized, all for comedic effect.

Compare Harmful Healing and If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You. Contrast Happy Ending Massage, where the massage is not only pleasant, but sexual.


Anime and Manga

  • In Mission: Yozakura Family, Futaba heads to the mall to get a massage done by her usual masseuse. Said masseuse is a hulking ex-spy old lady who massages Futaba so intensely that the person in the next room wonders if they're bending steel pipes. The experience is relaxing for Futaba of course, but it's blatantly clear that anyone who isn't at least as tough as she is would be in for a very bad time.
  • Pokémon: In one especially weird episode, an evil Togepi enters Team Rocket's base, and uses its Psychic powers to control the Giovanni robot that Meowth installed in his room to massage himself. This causes the robot to start massaging him so fast it burns him.
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  • In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, one chapter has Kaguya offering to give Miyuki a hand massage because she believes it'll keep him focused on hernote . Unfortunately she's never given a massage in her life which, combined with her extensive knowledge of martial arts, results in her pressing down hard on every single pressure point in poor Miyuki's palm and leaving him (silently) screaming in pain. To make matters worse, Kaguya ends up being the one to produce the "anti-affair hormones", which puts her in a lovey-dovey mood and makes her try to keep the massage going as long as possible.

Comic Books

  • In one Archie Comics story, Reggie wrenches his back doing a stunt dive. Archie takes him to the clinic, where they're shown in to the masseusse (which Archie dismisses as quackery). Archie gets a cute one, Reggie gets a Battleaxe Nurse who does more harm then good.

Comic Strips

  • In one Garfield strip Jon ordered an in-home massage and got The Ahnold for a masseuse. Nothing's shown but Garfield hears a loud cracking sound, followed by Jon asking if that was him.
  • Discussed and Played for Laughs in The Far Side, where Captain James Hook from Peter Pan is visiting the job counselor Doreen, with Doreen stating "Okay, Mr. Hook. Seems you're trying to decide between a career in pirating or massage therapy. Well, maybe we can help you narrow it down."


  • In The Loud House fanfiction Nicely Done, Luan tries to give Luna a massage using her ventriloquist dummy Mr. Coconuts. Because he's made of wood, this just gives her a cramp in her back.
  • In Peeking Through the Fourth Wall, Lana reveals that Leni tried giving her a massage earlier, but it felt like she was being kneaded like dough and was unpleasant.

Film— Live-Action

  • In Swindle, part of the plan to stall and trick Swindle is for him to take a massage, with who he believes is the rich auction owner he's trying to impress. Throughout the scene, he's grunting in pain and keeps getting his neck chopped and pushed.


  • Everworld: During their stay on Olympus, the cast learns that guests can opt for a massage (along with other... services...), one of which is implied to be this by David.
    "Your choice of nymph or satyr. Or nymph and satyr. Or nymph, satyr, and a helot they call the Harsh Spartan. Don't ask. I did, and trust me, You Don't Want to Know."
    Christopher spread his hands wide, encompassing the marble and alabaster perfection of the room. "I am home. I mean, this place? Do you have any idea of the profit potential if we could book people from the real world in here? I mean, this is what, a five-thousand-dollar-a-night experience?"
    "Extra for the Harsh Spartan," Jalil said.
  • In Stark by Ben Elton, one of the characters is a Granola Girl who insists on giving her friends massages but isn't actually any good at them, so her victims get a lot of painful kneading and no benefit.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Q-in-Law, Wesley is given a clumsy slave girl whose attempt to massage him results in a broken rib.

Live-Action TV

  • Drake & Josh: One episode had the two brothers getting rich by selling grills two men gave to them, not realizing that the grills were stolen. Using their new money, they pay for massages. Drake's masseuse is a young, attractive woman. Meanwhile, Josh's masseuse is a stereotypical Brawn Hilda. She even cracks her fingers before starting the massage, suggesting that the experience will hurt for Josh.
  • Friends: In one episode, Monica gives Chandler terribly painful massages, but he's too afraid to tell her, because he doesn't want to ruin their relationship.
  • Downplayed in an episode of Home Improvement. Tim has a business meeting in a Japanese hotel, and has to join his bosses in a full Shiatsu massage. While they enjoy themselves, Tim is clearly in pain when the masseur starts stepping on his back.
  • In Long Way Round, Ewan and Charley go for a spa massage in Almaty, Kazakhstan to relax them after a grueling ride. In a case of possible cultural differences, they basically get the crap pummelled out of them by two huge guys with stinging soap and it's about as far from the relaxing experience they wanted as you could imagine.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q", Dr. Crusher administers one of these to the recently-made-human Q to relieve his back spasm which causes him to complain in-between cries of pain.
      Q: "Your bedside manner is admirable, Doctor. I'm sure your patients recover quickly just to get away from you."
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Scientific Method", aliens are experimenting on Captain Janeway, making her feel a bit snappish and groggy. Given that she's a notorious workaholic, the Doctor mistakes the symptoms for Sleep Deprivation and gives her a vigorous back massage.
    EMH: You work absurdly long hours under constant stress, eating on the run, without sufficient exercise or rest. Your body is crying out for mercy.
    (Works his elbow into Janeway's back, which gives a Sickening "Crunch!")
    Janeway: It certainly is right now! There must be some easier way to do this, Doctor. A hypospray, maybe?
    EMH: Always looking for the simple fix. Sometimes there's no substitute for intensive osteopathic pressure therapy. You're fortunate to have a masseur who can work all day without tiring. (Janeway gets Oh, Crap! look)
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Done intentionally in the episode "Have A Nice Trip". To prove that a guest was lying about having been hurt by Zack, the twins enlist Maddie's help as a fake hotel masseuse, who, among other things, uses burning hot rocks as part of the massage, all in an effort to make him admit his injury is fake.
  • The Goodies. Graham Garden tries to massage Tim Brooke-Taylor's stomach with a medicine ball and drops it clean through his body. In another episode, Tim's stomach ends up being kneaded like dough.

Video Games

  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, to convince Madam M to help Aerith get into Don Corneo's manor, Cloud must pay for a hand massage. If Cloud opts for the cheapest option, he ends up visibly in pain and his health bar actually shows that he took damage.
  • SPY Fox 2: Some Assembly Required'' has Fox getting info from a bear massage therapist. Her massage routine is obviously painful for Fox, which he politely brings up each time you ask for her services. At one point she'll even fold him up into a paper airplane and fly him around the booth.


  • In the Housepets! arc "The Four Animals you Meet in Heaven" Keene visits a weasel massage parlor where they cartoonishly stretch him out, twist him up and release, then flatten him with a rolling pin. Oddly he seems to enjoy it.

Western Animation


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