“Wait, Deep Tissue doesn’t have to be painful?”
No, it doesn’t.
“Has my entire life been a lie?!”
No, just your perception of Deep Tissue bodywork.
It is a common misconception by clients and Massage Therapists, that receiving a Deep Tissue Massage is a painful experience. Sadly, some misconceptions by clients are a result of personal experiences with Practitioners that believe in this method.
A quick Google search reveals countless articles and posts defining Deep Tissue in similar ways. Some Practitioners subscribe to the “Mike Tyson method”. They believe that the only way to address an issue is to “box” it out of you. I’m sorry, but I thought Practitioners offered Therapeutic services, not mixed martial arts. Yes, there are some therapeutic modalities that are defined by their intensity, but Deep Tissue should not be one of them. It has received a bad rep in recent years. I was also guilty of subscribing to this method earlier in my career. However, let’s clear the air by defining what it is and is not. Deep Tissue is not defined by its stroke pressure, but by technique and intent. By combining focused, manual strokes, the intent is to apply targeted techniques to the body to mobilize the deep fascial layers and free restrictions.
Hey! I’ll let you in on a little secret. The hidden meaning is in its name. Deep. Tissue.
Our bodies are made of tissues; groups of similar cells that carry out similar functions. Connective tissue is diverse and is the most abundant type of tissue in our bodies. Ligaments, tendons, bone, fat and even blood are types of connective tissue. Connective tissue can be dense and provide stability (tendons and ligaments) and loose, filling the spaces between organs and muscles, providing support. Loose and dense connective tissue are arranged in layers beneath the skin and throughout the muscle tissue, creating a continuos network of fibers. They are arranged in superficial layers, and you guess it, deep layers. Our focused, manual techniques aim to target and mobilize the deepest layers. The key word here is “focused”. That is the true intent behind the Deep Tissue modality. To focus means to channel one’s efforts to a single point or goal. To adapt and refine one’s interest or activity on something to seek clarity. Pressure is always subjective. One client may perceive a stroke’s pressure as light, while another may perceive the same pressure as deep. So we cannot truly define Deep Tissue by pressure alone, or any modality for that matter.
The most helpful aspect of any massage session is communication. This should happen before, during and after a session. This is where the “therapy” in Massage Therapy comes into play. The most unhelpful feedback a client can offer is no feedback. An effective Therapeutic session relies on developing a treatment plan that works best for the client. A practitioner has to understand the client’s unique needs to develop an effective action plan.
For some clients, a Deep Tissue session can result in discomfort in tender areas, which is sometimes normal. However, the pressure should never exceed a little discomfort or induce intense pain. If this occurs, the massage is likely doing more harm than good. If the client is clenching or tensing their muscles in response to a massage, we’re defeating the purpose and intent of a Deep Tissue Massage. Aren’t clients seeking help to reduce pain?
So, why would we cause them more?