What is Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage doesn’t mean deeply painful, or only addressing the deepest muscle layers. I think of deep tissue bodywork as specific work (vs. general). I like to spend some time observing your posture to find patterns behind your pain. I may assess your range of motion to find the tissues that are most restricted or uncomfortable. Rather than trying to fix a tight area through force, I like to listen to your body’s tissues and get a sense of what it really needs.
The techniques that influence my deep tissue work include:
- trigger point therapy
- myofascial release
- direct manipulation
- proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
- Thai massage
- Craniosacral therapy
All of these create varying levels of “therapeutic discomfort,” and I think it’s important to avoid pain so that your body stays receptive to the massage.
Two ways I find useful to communicate about comfort levels include a 1-to-10 scale, and a stoplight scale.
On a scale of 1-to-10, 10 being agony and 1 being barely there, the highest we want to go is 7. It hurts so good, but it’s not painful.
With a stoplight, green means the massage feels good, pure enjoyment. Yellow is to go slowly, with caution, because it’s an intense spot — but don’t stop (this is different from Oregon traffic laws, but it’s a good metaphor for massage). Red means something’s wrong — you’re getting a sharp shooting pain, or the area is really sensitive, you’re feeling nauseous, etc — so we’ll come up with a change.
To help prepare your body for deeper or more specific work, I use the flowing strokes of Swedish massage. Swedish massage may increase circulation to relieve painful tissues, help drain inflamed areas, and relax tense muscles. Swedish strokes are also great to “make nice” in an area after working intensely. These techniques help to begin and end the conversation with an area of the body, a friendly hello and good-bye.