When it comes to massage, every person is different. Some people are more sensitive to pressure than others or have injuries that will react to one technique but not another. What works for one person may not work for another. This is especially true for deep tissue massage.
There seems to be some confusion regarding deep tissue massage. During consultations with clients I have heard some very interesting positions on deep tissue massage. Some of these statements have included “There is no such thing as too much pressure”, “You can’t hurt me” and “I have a high tolerance for pain.” These comments disturb me because many of these people are made to believe that it is normal for their massage to be painful. What’s worse is that they are basing these beliefs on information they are receiving from their massage therapists.
The truth is there is such a thing as too much pressure and, yes, your therapist can hurt you. Most importantly, if there isn’t enough pressure to hurt you then you might have some type of neurological issue that needs to be addressed.
I’ve met many therapists who talk about deep tissue massage like it is supposed to be punishment. I have actually had therapists tell me that they only do deep tissue. Deep tissue massage is about getting into the deeper layers of tissue and is not based on the amount of pressure that is applied to the tissue. It doesn’t mean that the massage should be painful. Applying too much pressure to the tissue or pulling it too far can exacerbate an injury or cause problems that were not there already.
There are many therapists out there that unfortunately do not understand this. In my own experience I once had a therapist working on my iliotibial band. She dug her elbow so hard into my outer thigh that it left a bruise. There was no benefit to that. She was proud of the fact that she could “lay the hurt” on someone. I had to see another therapist to undo what she had done. So often I hear therapists talk about the amount of pressure they apply like they have some kind of point to prove. You want to avoid these therapists.
A skilled therapist will be able to feel your tissue reacting positively or negatively to the treatment. Based on this response a skilled therapist can determine if too much pressure is being used. Yes, there will be times when the techniques a therapist is using are uncomfortable to you. This is because there are adhesions in the muscle tissue or there is inflammation, spasms or some other issue in the muscle; however, the pain shouldn’t be lifting you off of the massage table. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist that they are working a little too heavily or that they are hurting you. Communication is a very important part of your massage session. Your therapist should be checking in with you from time to time to make sure that the pressure is comfortable for you. Also, you should communicate with the therapist if you have any concerns with the techniques he or she is applying and the amount of pressure being applied.
It is important to know that if you have serious injuries the first few sessions of massage may leave you a little sore but you shouldn’t feel significant pain. If your therapist continues to hurt you after you communicate your concerns and he or she tells you that it’s supposed to feel like that, you should probably look for a more qualified therapist. Your massage treatment should be helpful and therapeutic, not a torture session.