When you hear “Deep Tissue” you might imagine a Massage Therapist finding a knot in your back and then proceeding to press into the knot with a good amount of force using their elbow. Your body braces against the pressure. Breathing is difficult as your torso and limbs become engaged in shielding your body against the pain. You focus on your breath and relax into it. Staying steady with the pain where the MT is applying pressure. It dissipates and the quality of the pain shifts. It doesn’t hurt anymore and the area is easier for you to move.
But what if that doesn’t sound like a good time?
Like, you’ve tried deep tissue and found that it left you hurting more. The whole process was near torture and kind of scary. Sure your muscles felt more loose. It still hurt to move your shoulder for days after. But then it felt better for a couple of weeks. You might still go back because you think it’s the only way to be pain free (even for a little while). Plus, it’s supposed to be really intense.
Or, the idea of experiencing even more pain through the process of healing doesn’t really speak to you. You feel the need to be more gentle with yourself. You might have a high sensitivity to pain or you’ve found high intensity deep tissue does not work for you. You still enjoy massage and feel like it could help you with your chronic pain if it didn’t have to be so jarring.
My approach to Deep Tissue doesn’t involve pressing with all my weight into a knot as the only solution. Relief from chronic pain or regaining movement in a muscle doesn’t have to be an intense massage experience.
There is often some pain experienced in pain management massage. But we really try to stay in the realm of “Productive Pain”, pain that feels like it’s doing something and isn’t causing your body to jolt in response. Beyond productive pain is “Danger Pain”. This pain is shocking, jarring; it is a chore to breathe and miserable to endure. You do not HAVE TO endure this pain to be pain free. You can if you want, if that’s your bag. Seriously, no judgement. Whatever works for you is great and I’m happy you’re connecting with your body.
But, if pain is more of an obstacle to connecting with your body than healing with it, deep tissue massage CAN be less intense while still effective.
We can work a little more gently. I can still feel and address muscles/ tissues that are deep with less pressure. There are so many ways to affect deeper layers of our body without simply pressing in.
You don’t have to fight fire with fire all the time.