It happens a lot. People come into my office requesting I work as hard as I possibly can on them. What they desire, naturally, is more pain on top of their already existing pain. They believe intense pressure, applied to their painful muscles, will get rid of pain.
It’s that old way of thinking… no pain, no gain. It’s ironic.
Yes, effective, deep tissue work requires a certain intensity, but one must remember we bodyworkers are working with “soft tissue” and we want the tissue to return to it’s normal resting length, and suppleness. Pounding on them will only make matters worse.
I usually explain my approach as a deep tissue technician like this: resolving pain patterns in the tissues is not dependent upon intense pressure. It’s about identifying the patterns and understanding what is contributing to the pain. There’s a lot more to it than applying deep pressure in the area that hurts. The whole body is involved. On the other hand, deep tissue work is not the same as a swedish massage which aims to relax the body.
A client might ask for deep pressure, but the pain analyzing system in their body will tell me how deep to go. In other words, muscles guard against pressure, and I must work above the body’s limits in order for change to take place. The path of least resistance yields greater change. A bodywork session should not be all intense for the entire duration of the treatment. If it is, the nervous system will get overwhelmed and the body will move into a fight/flight/freeze response. This is the opposite of true pain relief.
As a massage therapist my goal is to inhibit the stress response and invite the body into a state of ease so that it can repair unhealthy muscle tissue with as little added stress or trauma possible.
But people will still request deep pressure.
And that’s OK.