Massage: How Deep Is Too Deep?
Are you the patient who goes for therapeutic or “deep tissue” massage and continually asks for deeper pressure even though it hurts? It is easy to think that a treatment is not working if you do not feel pain during a massage, but this could not be farther from the truth.
There are many misconceptions about what a deep tissue massage is, and if you ask 10 different people for a definition you would likely get 10 different answers. At its core, a deep tissue massage is meant to work through the tissues of the body layer by layer. How deep a massage therapist can get through those tissues depends on a few different factors including how tense the overlaying tissue is and how much inflammation or swelling is involved.
Enter the pain. When a therapist tries to push their way through tense tissue instead of work with it, the body responds by sending pain signals to the brain and tightens the muscles as a protective measure. This can result in tearing of the tissue, bruising, and a client leaving with more tension than they came in with. This is not a productive use of massage time at all!
To get the most out of your therapeutic massage session, stay aware of how your body feels during the treatment. To maximize your overall benefit of a deep tissue massage, be sure to alert the therapist if your muscles feel pain or if they are tensing up. Remember that many of the benefits of your massage are being canceled if you are uncomfortable or tense during treatment. A massage does not need to have excessively heavy pressure to be therapeutic; it simply needs to be deep enough to address the problem tissue. Most importantly massage should feel comfortable for you, the receiver!
Remember these tips to ensure that your massage session is beneficial to you. Be honest with yourself (AND your massage therapist) if feelings of muscle relief turn to muscle pain. Your massage therapist is part of your healthcare team and your dialog is very important to achieve maximum results.