The biggest piece of  misinformation about deep tissue massage that I deal with as a therapist, is that most people believe that that deep tissue means applying a lot of heavy-handed, deep pressure.

The second piece of misinformation is that if it’s a “deep tissue” massage has to be painful in order to  be effective.

In reality deep tissue massage has nothing to do with the amount of pressure being used or the level of pain the client is experiencing.

Deep tissue has everything to do with working the deeper tissue layers of muscle and fascia in order to facilitate healing.

When clients come to me with the misguided notion that deep pressure & pain = deep tissue & a “good” massage it is my job to educate them on why deep pressure is often ineffective and may actually cause more damage. (Also, I’m not going to injure myself trying to intentionally cause pain to a client. I want to be able to do this work for many years to come.)

The ‘deep’ in deep tissue is referring to the deeper layers of muscles, not the amount of pressure used. A true deep tissue massage is done slowly and with light to medium pressure.

Soft tissue can’t be forced into relaxation. Muscles will actually fight back against too much pressure as a way of protecting themselves from potential injury. At that point the only things happening are pain, for clients and possibly therapist, bruising and tissue damage.

Also, a “deep tissue” massage isn’t meant to be a head-to-toe experience, it’s used for specific areas of concern.

All of this doesn’t mean there won’t be moments of pain or discomfort during a massage session, deep or otherwise.  Working on “knots” and already sore, tight areas can be somewhat uncomfortable.  I tell my clients that “comfortably uncomfortable” is a s far as we ideally want to go.  The discomfort should never be to the point where you feel as if you can’t relax, or breathe through it. If you want to hold your breath it’s too much. Communication with your therapist is key since every client has a different threshold of comfort.

So, next time your getting a massage remember “no pain, no pain” will get you much better results than the dangerous and outdated notion of “no pain, no gain”.This is NOT what a deep tissue massage should feel like.

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