How much is to much, when it comes to massage pressure?

Having worked as a Massage therapist in Toronto for over 10 years, I consider myself to be a massage therapist who uses deep pressure but can also give a rejuvenating relaxation massage. Therefore I would like to discuss the importance of communication between a massage therapist and the client. The more communication there is between you and your therapist with how much pressure is being used and your pain threshold the better results you will have.

 

Some of the basic techniques/modalities used throughout a massage are not painful in fact they feel good if the pressure is right. General Swedish Massage Therapy is the foundation to massages and these techniques performed are to increase circulation, decrease muscle tension and promote lymphatic drainage. As each client is unique so are our treatments. We tailor our treatments to each client by combining specialized techniques that intermingle with Swedish massage.  The pressure used with Swedish massage is really determined by your preference between light, moderate or deep pressure.

 

Wwhat I would like to discuss are some of those specialized techniques and how much pain or pressure should be used. One specialized technique for example that is commonly performed by almost every therapist is Trigger Point Therapy. What is a Trigger Point? A Trigger Point is laymen for a knot, a palpable nodule in the muscle fibers within the muscle belly. Sometimes these trigger points become activated by sending a referral pattern that is registered as pain, limiting range of motion as well as daily normal every day activities.  We want to get rid of those bad boys! The best way to get rid of a trigger point is by applying sustained pressure directly on the nodule using the thumb, fingertips or elbows. I’ve been told my elbows are very pointy which is handy for this treatment.  As the pressure is applied, blood supply is being blocked. We want this to happen so a resurgence of blood returns to the muscle, nourishing the area upon the release of pressure, deactivating the trigger point.

 

You can imagine that sustained deep pressure on a sore and tender muscle might be painful. You are absolutely right! No doubt this technique is painful but how much is too much. There is the famous quote “no pain, no gain” which is true, …but only  to a certain extent. Normally there are signs that tell us if it’s too much pain. Such as the muscle starts to spasm due to too much pressure (which is exactly the opposite we want to accomplish), quick and shallow breaths or holding your breathing. Your body tells us a lot without any verbal clues but sometimes we can miss them. If you’re experiencing too much pain, it is very important to communicate that to your therapist, because we can do more harm than good.  Some clients’ feel they can take it to get optimal results, and some can, but that’s not always the case. It all depends on your pain threshold. Some are high and some are low. There is no need for unnecessary pain. A brilliant, but old school way to determine how much is too much is by a pain scale. We use this with our clients and it works every time. On a pain scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest we don’t work above a 7. Every person’s 7 will be different but anything above that is “unnecessary pain”. Once some of the pressure is reduced even by a fraction, the technique will still provide excellent results and you’re left with a relaxed pain free muscle!

 

The reason why I bring this all up is because too much pain during the treatment, can lead to too much pain after the treatment. Like working out, you may feel sore for a few days later, the same goes with a massage therapy treatment. This is a normal response, if you’re getting a deep tissue massage.  We worked hard on you, digging our elbows or thumbs, stripping along your muscles, breaking up adhesions in connective tissue…of course you may feel sore. But it shouldn’t last long. If it does, then too much pressure was applied or the muscles and nervous system didn’t respond well to the techniques used. Like I said earlier, there are clues to watch for, but sometimes we need to check with you so you can let us know how you’re doing.   It is our responsibility to provide the best treatment plan and results possible! There are a couple of things  you can do to help us ensure you have the best experience with your therapist, like tell us if we need to decrease pressure or  modify the technique. I want you to feel empowered and feel assured that you are in good hands. We have only your health’s best interest at heart ,and please don’t hesitate to let us know how you’re doing during your massage. You won’t hurt our feelings…I promise!