I preform a lot of deep tissue massage and I pride myself on the amount of pressure and depth I’m able to achieve. It takes a lot of work and nuance to really sink into the tissue, to soften the outer layers and get deep into where the adhesions and muscle tension tends to hide. I don’t get there through brute force or starting off as hard and deep as humanly possible. Instead I take the the time to engage with my clients before the deep tissue massage and really discuss what their goals for the session are, I go over their intake form and ask what they have going on in their bodies, I ask about their stress levels and the type of work they do. It’s important to recognize the client as a whole person and not just their muscles. It’s imperative that a client feel safe and comfortable with their massage therapist so that they can relax enough for effective work to be done. A tense and uncomfortable client will have a limited chance of achieving the results they are seeking. Once we have the goals, conditions and other factors in mind, we are able to start the session and work together to get the desired results.
I never start a massage using 100% of the pressure I am capable of giving. Trying to force and push and struggle against walls of muscles goes very poorly for everyone involved in the healing process! There seems to be this idea that bodywork isn’t effective if you aren’t gritting your teeth and suffering through the pain. There’s this false belief that a massage has to be painful in order to work. This couldn’t be further from the truth! When you struggling through a painful massage, you’re actually hindering your own healing process. That isn’t to say deep tissue massage can’t include a bit of uncomfortability but it should never reach unbearable levels. Instead, a massage should start with firm, yet comfortable pressure, warming up and softening the outer layers of tissue so that deeper work can be easily preformed. Massage should be less like a jackhammer against concrete and more like sinking into wet sand.
Consider what its like to be on a beach, if you run across the wet sand it solidifies, gets harder, you’re able to move quickly and deftly, you never reach the layers underneath. If you jump on the sand, you get the same results, you’re met with resistance. The harder and faster you try to approach the sand the more it resists you but if you slow down, and use gentle pressure, the sand will work with you and let you get as deeply as you’d like to go. Muscles respond in a similar way, when they’re approached with jarring, fast, hard pressure they tense up in an attempt to protect the tissue underneath. Our bodies are designed to keep our deeper layers safe. However, when the outer layers of muscle are approached in a calm, relaxed, slow and steady manner they are more likely to allow someone to sink in and really get to the problem areas in the body. These areas may feel tender to the touch, but it should never be more painful than a 6 or 7 on a 1-10 scale. I will often approach these “knots” or tender areas in a slow manner and pause to allow the adhesion to release with a few deep breaths and specific intention. Even when I’ve managed to sink into the deeper layers, I still don’t aggressively attack “problem” areas! Muscles much like humans, respond with openness and softness to patience, compassion, understanding and respect. They respond with tension and defensiveness to force and impatience. A deep tissue massage should relax the body enough to get to the layers underneath and then should keep the body relaxed as those deeper areas are addressed.
Book your next deep tissue massage here and truly feel the difference sinking in can make.