It is assumed if you want effective relief from muscle tension that deeper is better.
Releasing muscle tension at the deep tissue structures does greatly assist the undoing of chronic muscle tension and knots, but not if that pressure is detrimental to the muscle structure and fibre.
The ‘No pain, no gain” philosophy that surrounds the value of Deep Tissue Therapy is not necessarily an effective method of treatment and can damage and bruise muscle fibre. To get a great therapeutic effect from massage, a therapist does not need to apply excessive pressure.
Our muscles are more inclined to respond to touch that simultaneously relaxes the muscle and nervous system thereby decreasing the hypersensitivity and tightness in the muscle fibres. Muscles are multi-layered and support us from the inside out. When we contract our muscles repetitively, such as in sport and exercise, job related activities or stress-related muscle tension, sensitive trigger points can develop within the fascia that covers and protects the muscle fibre itself.
Our muscles will work for us continually and be as supportive as they can in the circumstances that they operate within. If through repetitive use, trigger points and knots develop in a muscle it will contract and restrict mobility and range of movement, passing the responsibility to continue with the activity on to related muscle groups. Eg. The shoulder rotator muscles are under strain, so the elbow and arm muscles do more work.
Deep tissue massage is effective when delivered with firm kneading and effleurage, and slow strokes to encourage muscles, fascia and nerves to relax and open, allowing the therapist to reach deeper layers without ‘pushing’ their way in. As muscles open, a therapist can work intuitively, with movement and adjusting pressure, working on deeper adhesions with minimal discomfort.
The communication between therapist and client is essential. As much as a therapist can ‘read’ signals of response to a pressure or movement, every client has their own sensitivities and preferences to a therapist’s touch. There are differences in hypersensitivity, muscle memory pain, pain threshold and neurological responses. An area that was tight with no response to pressure can be suddenly hypersensitive after the muscles open to trigger points or adhesions inside.
Breath and communication are key. Feeling safe that your therapist will work toward a gentle but deep approach is vital for the neural pathways to relax, therefore opening the chance for a deeper, caring therapy. All therapies are as highly individual as is the client.
Deep Tissue Therapy is an important modality for our modern world. Our lifestyles can be more sedentary today at both work and socially resulting in muscle adhesions, repetitive strains and limited movement throughout our whole body. With massage we need to connect and relax our nervous system, as well as muscle structures and this cannot be achieved through painful treatments.
So, to enjoy and receive amazing results from your therapy treatment, breath and communicate. Always let your therapist know if the pressure is uncomfortable or painful. You may have to relax through a few stubbornly tight muscles, or breath when a trigger point is found, but no, you should never have to have ‘pain to gain’ greater mobility and function from a massage.