Deep Tissue Massage
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 I like to use for specific work include:
- trigger point therapy
- myofascial release
- direct manipulation
- proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
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 increases circulation to relieve painful tissues, helps drain inflamed areas, and relaxes 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.
Some bodies respond best to subtle work that has a deep impact. With craniosacral therapy, gentle holds allow me to feel the motion and rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes and protects the brain and spinal cord. Restrictions in cranial bones or connective tissue elsewhere in the body can be released with light-touch techniques. Craniosacral work can alleviate headaches and help speed recovery from motor vehicle accidents.
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