The Truth About Deep Tissue Massage
Contrary to popular belief, Deep Tissue massage is not about the use of deep (or even painful) pressure!
Deep Tissue Refers to Tissue
Deep Pressure Refers to Pressure
Most people actually want deep pressure when they ask for a Deep Tissue massage. If you prefer a massage with a firm touch, ask for firm or deep pressure. A deep pressure massage can be great for general relaxation, to de-stress and to relieve minor aches. (Please keep in mind, deep pressure isn’t always the best when it comes to alleviating pain. If you’re not sure what is really best in your case, we’ll talk about it before you get on the table.)
So What is Deep Tissue Massage Really About?
True Deep Tissue massage:
- relieves tight muscles that reside deeper in the body, making them harder to reach;
- is primarily applied to problem areas, it is not a full-body treatment;
- doesn’t always use deep pressure!
What are some of those harder-to-access muscles?
- the deeper muscles in the thigh and calf,
- the smaller muscles in the back of the neck (under the trapezius),
- the muscles under gluteus maximus (which covers nearly the entire rear end),
- the little muscles between each vertebrae (multifidi),
How True Deep Tissue Massage Works
A thoughtful Deep Tissue therapist seeks to calm the nervous system, the driver of tension and pain. If a massage is so deep that it’s painful, it’s actually a counter-intuitive approach to muscle relaxation. A painful massage provokes the nervous system to create more tension, not less, as the body guards itself. Pain is a sign that the nervous system thinks the body is in threat of being damaged.
After all, how much can you relax when you’re feeling pain? If you’re like me, you tense up the more uncomfortable something is. Likewise you tense up when you’re cold.
Therefore, a good Deep Tissue massage may be done with:
- the use of heating pads and/or a heated table
- very slow strokes to calm the nervous system
- targeted muscle work
- gentle skin-stretching (yes, this really can work wonders)
- rhythmic compressions and/or vibration (comfortably shaking an area)
- a variety of pressures, from light to firm
Deep Tissue massage should be painless, just like all types of therapeutic massage.
The Problem with “No-Pain, No Gain”
(Resistance is Futile)
If you’ve believed that a massage has to be uncomfortable to be beneficial, I encourage you to reconsider. “No-pain, no-gain” is an idea that’s falling out of favor, both in manual therapy as well as athletics. In fact, causing pain during massage is contrary to the understanding of modern pain science. Pain creates a stress response in the body. “Even if it is subtle, stress hormones are released, blood vessels constrict, muscles tighten, and the body resists our efforts. The effect is exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve.”
Uncomfortable massage is perceived as a threat by the nervous system, causing the body to guard. Imagine how you tense up when tickled. Tickling is a form of threat and the nervous system stiffens, creating resistance. If the pressure of a massage is considered threatening, the nervous system resists. When the goal of a massage is relaxation of the muscles, creating resistance is futile!
So let me help you by providing a pain-free, yet firm massage, using advanced techniques to really help you relax.
 Painless Deep Tissue Massage by Alice Sanvito.
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