It seems like people who call to get a massage fall into 2 camps: those who want a deep tissue massage, and those that are afraid of it. I have heard a lot of interesting stories of people getting a massage on vacation and barely being able to move the next day. Or people who think they should be sore for a week after a massage “if it’s a good one”. Well I think it is time we went over what Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is, and when it is indicated.
What is DTM:
Muscles are layered on top of each other and over lap. Some muscles are right on the surface like your rectus abdominis (six pack ab muscles), and some are much deeper in the body like your Psoas muscle (deep hip flexor). So a DTM implies that the therapist is not just working on the superficial musculature, but reaching layers of muscle and fascia (connective tissue) further below the surface.
The Problem with DTM:
There is absolutely a time and a place for DTM, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what this means. Some therapists go after deep fascial layers, some therapists think this means trigger point work, and some just increase pressure as much as they can. If the client and therapist don’t have an open dialogue with clear instructions of when ‘enough is enough’, the client can experience a lot of discomfort and we don’t want that.
Does it have to hurt:
No. Bottom line, massage should never hurt if you don’t want it to. Some clients specifically say that they do not want to be in pain, and that should be respected. However, there are certain techniques that might cause discomfort. If the client and therapist communicate and agree on increased pressure, you can incorporate these deeper or more aggressive techniques into the massage. They can cause a little pain at the time, and a little bit of soreness the next day. I like to compare it to how you feel after a good workout. A good Massage Therapist will also be very skilled at warming and softening the tissue layer by layer to decrease the amount of pain felt by the client.
When is DTM suggested:
DTM can be useful to those that are recovering from an injury (once the client/patient is out of the acute phase), for athletes, for people with postural strains, or people with chronic pain. Typically there is an area or a few areas where this type of work is needed. For example, a person who has chronic postural pain/tightness from sitting at a computer, might need DTM to their shoulders, chest, and upper back/neck. They likely, do not need DTM on their whole body. Some therapists might disagree with me here, but I rarely think a full-body, DTM, is needed. It can simply be too much. I would rather see a client more often, for less-intense sessions. It is simply more effective. It is the same as Physical Therapy- it is more effective to do it regularly.
Why Massage is good for everyone:
Massage Therapy, whether Swedish, DTM, Trigger Point, or Clinical, is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Not only does Massage decrease pain, it improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep quality, decreases stress, and simply makes you happy!
If you are unsure what type of massage is right for you, call a Massage Therapist and ask. A good massage therapist should be able to discuss your goals, ask the right questions, and come up with a treatment plan that everyone is comfortable with.
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