It's not the Technique that Hurts, It's the application of it

In the above picture I'm working on my young daughter.  I have used the same techniques on her that I use on Professional Athletes.  Her pressure limit is much less than an adult athlete, but the technique used is the same.  Many people have heard of certain techniques that can cause pain, and associate that specific technique with pain..

While certain techniques like Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage, Structural Integration and Rolfing can be very intense, they should not exceed the persons tolerance threshold.  You should be able to breathe through the "deep" or "intense" techniques during your massage.

There are many things I do while providing Deep tissue and sports massage techniques here in the Orlando area to help the client tolerate their corrective massage therapy.

There are several basics when providing massage for athletes, injuries and regular Deep Tissue Massage:

  • Initial Contact.  Initial contact with the client should be with a non-specific tool, such as the palm of the hand.
  • Work up to Deep Pressure.  The deepest techniques are done successfully by warming up the more superficial tissues and working through them first.  Much like the peeling of an onion analogy, working through each layer of tissue allows the therapist to provide deep tissue massage without injuring the client.
  • Communication.  Some clients feel they have to "tough it out" or are afraid to mention they don't like a particular technique for fear of hurting the therapists feelings.  These are completely wrong.  Toughing it out is the surest way to experience intense pain and potential energy.  As far as hurting the massage therapists feelings; we're here to help you.  If we are not doing our job, we need to know about it.  Whether you want deeper pressure or lighter pressure, your communication with the massage therapist helps get you the results you want.

I am able to tell when the pressure is becoming too much for a client.  Their body begins to tense and "fights" the massage.  This does the client and me no good at all.  At this point I will back off on the pressure, communicate with the client what I'm doing and ask them to focus on breathing.

On some people it is very difficult to tell if they are holding their breath or enduring unnecessary pain.  This is where client communication is key.  I will check in throughout the massage, but it is up to the client to speak up WHENEVER they are uncomfortable.  I am never offended, annoyed, or worried about you telling me you are uncomfortable.  My job as a massage therapists is to help alleviate your pain and discomfort, not randomly add to it.

That being said, when you are receiving massage therapy for an injury, chronic condition, or just over-used muscles your massage session can and should feel intense at times.  As I mentioned to a new client recently...

"You should feel Comfortably Uncomfortable."

To me, this means you should feel some discomfort when I am working on an injured area, or an area that has been chronically held tight.  Simply applying light pressure does not help break through to the deeper layers of the body's musculature.  Some discomfort is OK when getting specific, goal oriented work done.

There are some guidelines to the discomfort you should feel:

  • You should always be able to breathe through any discomfort.  If you find yourself holding your breath, the pressure is too much for you.  Ask your massage therapist to decrease their pressure.  The therapist could also slow down their technique, or change to a broader tool such as the forearm or palm, as opposed to the elbow or thumb.
  • In a few situations, the pain can feel sharp and that is OK.  For the majority of situations, the discomfort you feel should not be a Sharp or Stabbing sensation.  If you are receiving Trigger Point therapy, the pain can sometimes be sharp or stabbing, but not for a long period of time.  If you are receiving a regular Deep Tissue massage, the discomfort should not be Sharp.
  • The phrase "Good Hurt" should come to mind when you are receiving a Deep, goal orientated massage.

The last thought I have on this subject for you is Pressure is relative.  For some people, they don't "feel" their massage unless there is a great deal of pressure being applied.  For others, the slightest touch can feel extremely deep.  I specialize in working with athletic individuals providing sports massage and deep tissue massage to help with injury rehabilitation and injury prevention.  Even among this group of people, the difference in how "Deep Pressure" is defined is vast.

So remember, everyone is different.  What you can tolerate for your massage session is the right thing for you.  A massage therapist may not realize their pressure is too little or too much unless you communicate with them.

Believe me, a good massage therapist wants to hear your feedback because they are in the business to help people.  And as I tell my clients, "I couldn't do it without you!"

If you're in the Central Florida area and want to get some great deep tissue massage or sports massage for yourself or traveling team or performance company get in touch with me through the Contact page and set something up.

Have a Great Day!

-Michael Ames, LMT

Deep Tissue & Sports Massage Specialist