I like deep tissue massage. No; I must admit that I *love* deep tissue massage!
For me, no other modality is quite as effective as deep tissue massage, when it comes to relieving my pain, while helping chronically tight muscles to finally relax. After a particularly good session, I feel how much the tightness in my muscles has dissipated, and how much that formerly- chronic tension affected me adversely. I literally feel like a new person. With that said, I must unfortunately admit that most of my experiences with therapists providing deep tissue massage have been less than amazing.
Why is a massage therapist well versed in the technique so difficult to find? I decided to compile a list of all the reasons that I could possibly think of. By the end of this article, I think you’ll agree that we probably covered all the causes of ‘deep tissue despair’.
Have you ever requested a deep tissue session, and the therapist did not use enough pressure to even quality for anything remotely far from light touch? One clue as to why this was happening was the feedback I’d receive from the therapist providing the massage: Repeatedly asking, “Am I hurting you” shows concern, but reveals a fear of actually working deep into muscle tissues and fascia. While feedback is essential to any good session, the purpose isn’t to allay the fears of the therapist.
The reality is, many therapists aren’t certain about how much pressure an individual client can deal with comfortably. But without even trying, no therapist is going to succeed at delivering anything close to a ‘deep tissue’ massage. Therapists need to learn, while training, just how much pressure the human body’s muscle groups can sustain without damage. Actually, it isn’t so easy to hurt a client using excessive pressure. (Of course, children, the elderly, and those with health conditions are the exception, and deep tissue is most often not recommended for these groups.)
Another reason therapists do not work with enough pressure is a lack of familiarity with muscle groups, location of glands, sensitive points, etc. Without knowing where one can and cannot apply significant pressure, a therapist will usually refrain from using any deep pressure at all. This is probably a good idea, for a therapist who is clueless; it’s better to be safe than sorry. An even better idea would be to find a therapist familiar enough with the human frame and muscle groups to actually feel comfortable with their own strength, and how to properly employ it.
If you’re extremely athletic, toned and muscular, that may be the issue. Deep tissue massage takes a lot of strength. If you’re a 300 pound wrestler, don’t expect a thin, frail therapist to be able to do much for you. The fact is, a muscular person requires a therapist to work with a great deal more force. A petite therapist without much muscle of his own cannot possibly succeed at delivering a good deep tissue session, even if the therapist utilizes proper form. This is a physical art, and without the physique, a therapist can only dream.
The next reason for failed deep tissue sessions seems to be laziness. Even when a therapist looks like a poster child for Gold’s Gym®, there’s no guarantee that she’ll provide a good session. If you’ve had one good deep tissue session, and went back for another, only to find that the therapist seems to have lost her strength, it may be a simple issue of laziness.
Deep tissue massage, when done properly, is hard work. There’s just no getting around this fact. Some therapists pace themselves throughout their daily sessions, and don’t want to expend themselves unduly for any one client. In their minds, the difference may be a smaller tip, but there was no guarantee of a tip in the first, and secondly, some clients tip no matter how the session went.
Lastly, there’s the inattentive therapist. A deep tissue session will not work if the therapist is distracted. No massage therapy session will go well if the therapist is daydreaming about dinner, or worrying about getting to the bank before it closes. With deep tissue massage, the effect is more pronounced, since this is a more intense modality.
In summary, we have to conclude that effective deep tissue massage therapy is rarer than one might guess, perusing the web sites and literature from most day spas and massage therapists. Just because a therapist *claims* to be adept at deep tissue massage doesn’t mean that he actually is. Any therapist can have an ‘off day’, but that shouldn’t result in a totally useless session. If that’s what you have experienced when seeking deep tissue work, your disappointment is justified. Try finding a new therapist, but ask some questions before booking.
Some useful questions might be: How many sessions weekly do you do using deep tissue techniques? Are you OK with using a lot of pressure? Do you tire easily? Do you like administering deep tissue massage? How comfortable are you using a LOT of pressure on my shoulders/back/thighs/etc? Your ad states that you practice deep tissue massage. DO your clients often request this service?
©Copyright 2011 H Miller