Massage Pressure, Types, Myths and Facts!

Massage Minute

Under Pressure

Pressure is a bit of a hard thing to pin down, mainly because it’s so changeable.

Each and every therapist will a have a different range of pressure that they are capable of, and each client will perceive pressure differently. What some might consider to be light and relaxing, another might find it to feel like a deep tissue massage and what some find deep and uncomfortable, others might find too light. No two people are the same so we always try to make sure we are checking in at different points in the massage to make sure you are comfortable with the pressure we are using. But it might help if you understand a bit about the different depths of pressure we might use, why we use that, and what to expect during a massage and how to talk to your therapist about it.

Types of Massage

What we call relaxation usually uses a lighter pressure (or whatever the client finds relaxing) and doesn’t work too deep into the muscles and tissue, mainly focusing on creating a sense of calm and relaxation (obviously). What people commonly refer to as “deep tissue” isn’t necessarily a different type of massage so much as a different type of goal. With deeper tissue work we typically use a deeper pressure in order to really work out the tension in the muscles and release deeper adhesions and scar tissue. Finally, therapeutic massage usually means we combine deeper pressure with specialized techniques like myofascial release, trigger point release and stretches with the goal of treating a specific issue. As with any deeper work, there is likely to be a bit of discomfort, but the goal is to having you leave feeling better than when you came in.

All this being said, this is just to give you an idea of what we mean when we talk about the different types of massage, but pressure is always something we can change, it isn’t set in stone. The really important thing is to communicate with your therapist about what you are coming in for and communicating with us.

Myths and Facts

There is this idea that massage is all “no pain no gain” and that’s just not true. Like I mentioned, deeper work in an area that is causing you grief is bound to have some discomfort but it should never be causing you to be in any real pain. I often tell my clients there is “productive discomfort” which is normal and “unproductive pain” which can sometimes make you feel worse after and won’t help address your concerns. Therapists usually check in to see if the pressure is too much.

Be honest! The therapist won’t be offended, its our job to make sure you are comfortable and getting the best treatment possible. The same can be said if you want more pressure, just ask! We treat all sorts of people and there is nothing wrong with asking for what you want. With that though, if we find that you are tensing up, we will probably check in with you and lighten our pressure simply because if we try to use a deep pressure on muscles that are tensing up it can actually cause harm.

There is also the myth that lighter pressure has no effect and some people feel embarrassed that they can’t handle deeper pressure. Honestly there is no reason for that, there is a lot of work that can still be done using a lighter pressure and there is never a need to “power through.” The key really is just to communicate with us about how you are feeling and what you are looking to get out of a massage. In turn, we will communicate with you about how things are feeling and if we have any suggestions.

What to expect after the massage?

We will also end every session with homecare that usually includes what to do if you are feeling sore. If I had a dime for every time someone came in and told me about how their last massage was so deep they were sore for 3 days and they were scared to try massage again, I wouldn’t be rich but I would have a lot of dimes. 

This isn’t the result we want and somebody should never have massage related soreness more than a day after a massage if at all.

We always recommend drinking water as part of your daily routine however it is especially important after a massage to reduce any soreness you might feel and to keep the effects of the massage lasting longer. It does this by hydrating the muscles that we just worked on so that they can continue to move smoothly and allow blood flow which is very important for tissue health as well as ensuring that your joints have enough cushion to move smoothly. This helps the muscles to continue to release and decrease your pain and tension long after you have left the massage table. 

Another thing we recommend after a massage, especially if you have had deeper work done, is a hot Epsom salt bath using about 4 cups of Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate is the main ingredient and when used to soak is has been shown to reduce muscles soreness and tension, and joint stiffness. Obviously these are all things we want for you after you have had a massage and can help you to feel better for a lot longer as well as help you deal with any post- massage soreness that you might have. If an epsom salt bath isn’t an option for whatever reason, even a hot bath or hot shower will help to reduce muscle tension.

What to take away from this?

Talk to us! Let us know how you are doing and be honest. We are here to help make sure you get the most out of your treatment.

Do your home care! Therapists give you things to do for a reason and you will be thanking yourself later.

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