Why would someone want a deep tissue massage?

I had a client ask me this very question a couple of weeks ago. As she lie on the table, her muscles sore from running the previous day and requesting less pressure to accommodate her worked muscles.

“I just don’t get why someone would want to be in pain during their massage!” she said.

This is a misconception that I often hear about massage. Massage, including deep tissue massage, does not have to be painful to be effective. Deep Tissue Massage refers to the tissue being addressed during the massage, not to the amount of pain felt during a massage.

Swedish massage is a topical application of massage. We often refer to this as a “fluff and buff” massage. Although Swedish massage is very relaxing, addressing emotional stress and beneficial for the skin; it does not address the underlying deep tissue, or muscle, lying under the skin.

Deep tissue addresses just that, the deeper tissue lying under the skin, namely the muscle.

Pain during a massage does not necessarily mean it’s a better massage. Your body doesn’t differentiate between “good pain” and “bad pain.” When you experience pain during a massage your body reacts exactly as it would if you were to put your hand on a hot stove. Your body also releases the same stress hormones as it would if you were really hurt or injured. This makes your massage much less effective and can possibly create more problems than you walked in with.

How do you know if your massage is too much? If you are holding your breath or tensing up any area of your body in response to pressure. Curling your toes, making a fist or pressing any part of your body into the table is your body telling you that pressure is too much.

You may experience some areas of discomfort as your therapist moves through the massage. Areas where you are very aware that your therapist is working, but not so much that it is creating the pain that we talked about earlier. This is okay. We explain to clients it is that soreness that you feel after a good workout. You’re sore, but it feels good. This is the most effective pressure to work in during your massage.

It is important to communicate with your therapist during your session about pressure. Too much? Not enough? Your therapist wants to make sure you are getting the best massage possible. One way to ensure this is to communicate about pressure. You will also see better, longer lasting results from your massage when pressure is applied correctly.