We’ve all heard of massage, and probably know of more than one kind. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 26 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Not everyone likes massage, but some who do use it to relax and reward themselves and boost overall well-being. It’s common to get a massage when stress is high. It helps your immune system to fight disease, releases natural pain killers and improves sleep. Others have pain and want to feel like it has been pulled out by the roots, which often causes soreness afterward.
Most Americans think of massage as a luxury, and their last massage was at a spa.
One of the most effective techniques, deep tissue massage is often misunderstood because most clients and therapists think it is a painful process that uses deep pressure to get at the deeper layers of muscle.
She had heard of deep tissue massage and knew that it’s also called myofascial release. She had avoided it because so many of her friends said it was extremely painful, and left them sore afterward. She didn’t like the idea of extreme deep pressure out of fear she could be injured.
Here’s what she found:
A friend said that deep tissue was like having her muscles ironed, getting out the wrinkles and tangles. She recommended Todd Steele, whom she had received a massage from, saying he was able to find tight painful spots she wasn’t aware of. Rather than intense pressure, he focused his contact just on the problem muscle, sometimes with two fingertips, others with a soft fist or his elbow or forearm.
He then had her move her leg which was her main complaint as he slowly sank into it enough to engage it. He patiently moved only as slow as the tissue would respond to his touch. She could feel the tension and discomfort easing. At times her stomach would growl in the especially tight places because she was switching from excess tension to relaxation.
He said that the brain constantly monitors every muscle and works automatically to prevent injury, relying on several nerve sensors in each muscle. He went on to say, that when she moves the part being worked on the brain regards the pressure as safe and sees the ‘invasion’ instead as a new possibility of freedom. It accepts the reduced tension as its new normal. Afterward, she smiled big and was excited because she was able to move with less difficulty.
Other uncomfortable areas improved once relieved from the strain caused by the first muscle. He said that muscle forms into distinct tight bands when problems develop, so he could easily find where to work. It did take ongoing feedback from her to get a clear picture of where she was tender or painful. He paid attention to her reactions so that he anticipated when he needed to lighten up. At times she said it ‘hurt good’ and felt like it needed to be worked on.
He placed a moist heating pad on the areas he worked, moving it from one to the next to reduce the possibility of soreness later. “Giving me feedback about how tender you are helps me find the best pressure to use so you don’t hurt afterward,” he said. “It’s hard to convince people it’s helpful to know where it hurts as I work because everyone believes it is supposed to hurt.” He said it was still possible she would be sore afterward in spite of precautions and recommended drinking water to rehydrate, and a warm bath or moist heating pad later to reduce the likelihood. He also sent her a brief description of how to improvise a heat pad with a moist hand towel heated in the microwave.
He talked her through two or three stretches, having her do them as he gave her the details of the movements. “If you do at least one of these a day without fail, you will get better and it will last longer. Two or three repetitions is enough; however, if you feel like doing all three stretches that’s fine. Just remember, at least one stretch a day, without fail!”
Now she knows that it’s called deep tissue massage not because of deep intense pressure, rather it feels like deep, focused touch in the right place. She had always thought of massage as a luxury, but it was a sort of a practical experience because she went from unbearable, seemingly unfixable pain to feeling like it did before this tightness started.
The next time you talk to a friend in pain, please share this article with them, so they know there’s a solution. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in to see me, I keep learning and might be of more help to you. Please call or text the number below, or email me. You can also click Schedule Now below to see what is available.
Todd Steele, LMT