DEEP TISSUE v's DEEP PRESSURE
Over the past 12 years of studying and receiving various forms of massage and bodywork I have learnt what works and what feels good for my body. Not only do I devote my time to practicing the art of bodywork I also spend a lot of time studying anatomy and physiology and theoretical principles of massage and bodywork. One of the biggest pet peeves I have with massage/bodywork is the seeming confusion over deep tissue and deep pressure. I love deep tissue massage, deep pressure not so much.....anyone can prod and stick a thumb or elbow into parts of the body and elicit a strong sensation does that mean it's deep tissue? Absolutely not! Deep tissue should aim to reduce and release restrictions and often that takes longer than an hours treatment (but that's for another post).
Deep tissue is generally not something that can be done throughout the whole body (not in an hour anyway) it's a slow and specific process of sinking down through the layers of tissue, feeling a response in the tissues and sinking a little more if the tissues allow. Deep pressure is where the therapist forces the tissue a particular way, as with most things push with enough force and you will meet resistance, which actually then defeats the overall purpose of receiving massage.
Any skilled therapist will tell you that they get much better results by allowing the tissues time to soften and release slowly over time, providing just the right amount of resistance for the release to be felt, which is unique to each client.
Deep tissue is a method of communication and is very much a two way conversation, deep pressure however I liken to a monologue.
As a clinical and sports massage therapist I attract a lot of active and sports people who often have a "no pain, no gain" mentality, which is an old school approach, perpetuated by therapists carrying on treating in a way that is not only NOT the most beneficial way of treating soft tissue but in my opinion ethically wrong, causing bruising, pain, feeling the need to hold the breath, curl the toes and grimacing are all signs that the pressure is too deep.
As many of my clients know I'm continuously updating my skills and looking for the most effective techniques to not only reduce pain and to improve range of motion but techniques that also feel good to the client. I've been on a lot of continuing education courses with world class teachers and not once have I been on a course and had a teacher recommend to go as hard as possible to cause pain, 20 years ago that may have been different however, but we learn and we move on with updated views and ways of working with the body.
That's not to say that when working with trigger points and restrictions and stickiness in fascia that there will be no discomfort felt but on a pain scale of 1-10, (1 being the lowest 10 highest) sensation should never be over a 6-7, often equated to that sweet spot and great results can be made even lower than that.
The next time you are receiving massage or some form of bodywork ask yourself is the therapist having a conversation with your body's tissues or is it a monologue with the therapist imposing unnecessary pressure.
Advanced clinical massage therapist and yoga teacher.