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A Word About Pressure

July, 8, 2011

When I have a new client, the first thing they often tell me is “I like it really deep” or “I don’t know if you can do it, but I want a deep tissue massage, I can handle the pain.” Trust me, I know the feeling. Before I became a massage therapist, I felt the same way. If it didn’t hurt, it didn’t count. I would be frustrated and dissatisfied with a lighter touch massage. One thing I started to notice, however, is while the deep massage felt great when I was on the table, it didn’t necessarily translate to long lasting pain relief. I always wished I could bring the massage therapist home with me to continue the treatment when the pain acted up. Deep pressure (or deep tissue massage) isn’t always the best way to address pain.

When I started massage school, I had a massage from an instructor in my school after suffering from a car accident that resulted in neck pain. Since I was a student, I was taking mental notes. At first I was worried I was going to get a relaxation massage and my neck issues would not be addressed. As I lay there, I decided to just enjoy the relaxing qualities of the massage. The therapist’s touch was soothing and I was enjoying myself. The 90 minutes flew by and I was in a state of deep relaxation by the time she stepped out of the room. I felt great when I walked out of her office, and was surprised to find that the next day my neck issues seemed to have been resolved, and I remained pain free from that point on.

Experiences with my own body, as well as my experience with my clients have led me to the conclusion that pain and discomfort are not necessary for healing, and can actually inhibit it. I know I can work incredibly deep, but the work must be slow and the body has to be in a relaxed state to incorporate the suggestions I am making to it.

Some may think that CranioSacral Therapy (extremely light touch) and Myofascial Release (deep fascia work) are mutually exclusive, but I work these two modalities similarly. The therapist must work with the body by listening to the tissues. As when dealing with children, forcing change is not usually successful. In order to exact change on dysfunctional tissue, the body needs to hear the suggestion and move itself. The body is a self-healing, self-regulating mechanism that is always moving toward homeostasis. Sometimes it needs a nudge, not a push.