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  • Writer's pictureKatie Stamm

A "deeper" understanding of pressure

I want to take a moment to talk about the pressure/depth used in a massage therapy session. One of the first things a therapist will do is ask what type of pressure you prefer. The common responses are “I like deep tissue” or “I don’t like it to hurt” or “I really don’t know”. We ask in order to get an understanding of what expectations you have for the session, but it is really through feedback during the session that the therapist is able to find the correct depth for you. Although many people have a general idea of what they like, every therapist and client’s idea of depth is different, so it is important to speak up throughout the massage if you are feeling the pressure is too much or not enough.

Let’s take a closer look at depth and some things to be aware of.

  • Massage doesn’t have to hurt to be effective. We have all heard the saying “no pain – no gain” and although in a therapeutic massage there can be some moments of discomfort, massage should never be extremely “painful”. Your therapist is trained to know how to “feel” your tissue and how to properly treat it. If a client asks us to go deeper we will absolutely do our best to work to a depth that feels the best to you but we won’t work deeper than your body allows us. A good therapist will treat an area and release any tension without forcing their way through your tissue. Imagine that your massage therapist is trying to treat a deeper muscle. They warm up the area, release the surrounding tissue and slowly are able to target and address deeper layers because they have worked their way into your tissue. As they treat, they still may hit a sharp painful spot or even use firm pressure but they are doing it consciously, all while listening to your body. Now imagine if we were to apply as much pressure as possible to force our way deeper. Your body tenses, your breathing stops and you start to guard by contracting the surrounding muscles. The therapist is now working against your tissue and fighting their way through. Doesn’t sound very effective does it?

So when it comes to depth, please let us know if you would prefer we use more pressure, but also understand that your therapist is listening to your tissue and can’t work effectively if they are fighting against your body.

  • The pressure is “too much”. If you are having a massage and you feel that the pressure is too much for you, tell your massage therapist. When giving a massage we can listen to your body and work with your tissue, but we can’t feel how you feel. We need you to let us know if what we are doing is too much for you, and causing you pain. There is nothing wrong with saying it hurts. It doesn’t make you a wimp or mean that you are not getting your money’s worth out of your treatment. Everyone is different and what feels best to you is different from what feels good to someone else. Listen to your body and be honest with your therapist.

  • Just because we don’t ask doesn’t mean we don’t care. A good massage therapist will check in during the treatment to see how you are feeling about the pressure they are using. However, when you start to see a therapist regularly, they start to get a feel for the pressure you like and may not ask you every time. It is important to stay open and let us know if we need to adjust, because as much as we try to stay consistent, your body is not always the same. There are days you are more sensitive, sore and tender and there are days you just need to relax. Whether it is your first massage or your 50th our goal is to give you the best treatment possible every time.

In summary, massage is all about communication. Being open and honest with your massage therapist before and during your session allows us to create the perfect treatment plan for you and your needs. They are able to do this by first understanding what you are looking to get out of the treatment. Are you here to treat something specific? Do you have an injury or a problem that has been bothering you? Are you in for maintenance and want us to treat what we come across? Or do you just want to relax? Once we understand what you are looking for we can create a treatment plan for your session and can start to look at the depth we may need to use to address your concerns. During treatment we want you to be open to letting us know if our pressure needs to be modified and we can then do so, while also being conscious of what your tissue is telling us.

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