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The Painful Truth About Deep Tissue Massage

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Sacred Waters’ Therapist Michael Rekas talks about deep tissue in the point of view post…

 

I hear it often, that clients expect pain in a deep tissue massage. So they either avoid that type of bodywork completely, or they go all in and actually want pain inflicted upon them. This could happen for many reasons, including past experiences with aggressive Deep Tissue work that left the client sore or bruised, an alpha attitude or a mentally of ‘no pain, no gain’, or simply conclusions reached based on hearing about massage from friends or family.
In my experience, pain is somewhat subjective, so it is helpful to further define what we’re going for in a Deep Tissue Massage, and what an experience Massage Therapist will try to avoid.
There are 3 types of pain in a Deep Tissue Massage…
1) GOOD PAIN
If you have ever had a co-worker, a loved one, or a Massage Therapist working on your shoulders, and they finally get to a spot that kind of hurts but actually feels GOOD when pressure is applied, then you already know this feeling. The Good Hurt. This is the feeling that keeps us in business. When you are feeling a “Good Hurt” for the majority of your session, you can rest assured that you are seeing a Massage Therapist who is actually skilled in deep tissue. This is the way it SHOULD FEEL.
2) PROGRESSIVE PAIN
Progressive pain is very similar to “Good Hurt,” but it lands slightly more on the side of hurt. This is actually a GOOD thing. As your therapist holds this pressure, and you begin to take a couple of breaths, you will notice that the pain reduces back into GOOD PAIN. That reduction in pain is actually your neuromuscular system reprogramming to a healthier normal… which is what will get you LASTING RESULTS.
Progressive pain is an extremely important part of the healing process, and you should expect to feel this during the majority of your session if you are trying to correct a painful condition (painful movement, tension headaches, computer shoulder, low-back pain etc.)
IMPORTANT: If your therapist takes you into progressive pain, they should hold the pressure long enough for it to reduce back down to good pain. Some therapists will get to that perfect spot, rub it a little, and quickly move on the the next spot… those are the sessions you find yourself getting annoyed, or feeling “teased.” If they find the right spots, but don’t HOLD the pressure on them long enough for you to let go of the pain, discuss it with the therapist as it is happening in the session.
3) UNBEARABLE PAIN
This is a level of pain you will find your body trying to escape from. The most common signs you are in unbearable pain — your body contracts muscles to protect itself and/or you find yourself holding your breath until the therapist hopefully eases off. YOU SHOULD NEVER BE IN UNBEARABLE PAIN DURING A DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE. A good rule of thumb: if you catch yourself holding your breath, or clenching your buttcheeks… tell us to back off!
Now that you know what to look for in an effective Deep Tissue Massage, don’t be afraid to discuss this with your Massage Therapist at your next session. Good communication, intentional breathing, and finding that inner space of peace and quiet, are the doorways to effective and longer lasting bodywork.
Love, light, and abundant blessings!
Michael Rekas, LMT
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