Well I guess it depends on who you talk to. I hear this question all the time and it drives me crazy! Due to the different levels of training in many areas this is a constant debate among massage therapists everywhere. For example, I was trained in an area that focused on medically based massage therapy. Now another place may promote on the premise of no pain, no gain. I was trained on the premise of doing no harm and to treat injuries and pain, not cause more. When I hear of people getting bruises from a massage, I shake my head in frustration and wonder if that therapist was paying attention to what they were doing. I always ask people if they told their therapist that it was painful and I’m surprised at how many times they had to tell them. Here are my thoughts on a Deep Tissue Massage and I’ve had very few complaints about my work.
1. Deep Tissue Massage should be firm massage that engages the tissue. Anything more than a feedback of “Comfortable Soreness” from your clients is unacceptable. Encourage your clients to let you when. If you see a stressful look on their face or feel them clenching, be sure to check in.
2. Pain is a warning from the body that its had enough. When you’re in pain, the body is sending you a warning that it’s at its limit and you need to back off. Forcing tissue causes more problems than it solves. Maybe consider spending more time warming up that area or doing range of motion and stretching near to the affected area to get it to open up.
3. Forcing tissue that’s not ready to give will cause injury. If a muscle is tight and you decide to stick an elbow in there, to show it who’s the boss, you may end up bruising or tearing the tissue. Now if you cause an injury to the muscle, how have you really helped it? People generally want to feel better after a massage not spend days recovering from one.
4. There are many comfortable and deep techniques that don’t require pain or intense pressure. Many people think that the only way to change a muscle is to administer painful and direct techniques that use force. Many great and effective techniques out there only require a good knowledge of antagonistic muscle groups so that you treat the culprit instead of just treating the symptoms. Also, you do more with less effort using a few powerful techniques.
5. Knowledge of cause and effect will help you to treat the problem more effectively and give your clients the results that they are looking for. When a muscle is tight, why is it tight? Is there compensation going on there? Are there postural issues? Is the muscle really tight or is it just over stretched? When you treat the problem, the symptoms always go away on their own.
Some clients may be too embarrassed or uncomfortable in giving feedback about the pressure. Maybe they’re afraid of offending you or coming across as a wimp but remind them that this is their massage and you want them to benefit from your work. Always put your client’s comfort first. Now of course none of this applies to those people put there who must have a painful massage. Just be sure to always put the safety of your clients first.