- Karen Stoner, LMT
Massage Tips and Trivia: Deep pressure isn't always necessary, especially if it hurts
"It is always ok to tell your massage therapist that they are working too deep - deep doesn't always mean better especially if it makes you hurt or leaves bruises."
One of the things I often hear from people is, "I got a massage once, and it hurt so bad that I never want to get another one." I always have to stop myself from then asking "Well, did you tell your therapist that they were hurting you?" because the answer very likely would be "No". This is a common issue, but can have multiple reasons for happening. First of all, everyone's perception and tolerance of pressure is different. What one person considers deep pressure may be what another person considers light-medium pressure. Likewise, each massage therapist is different - what one therapist considers deep pressure, or a particular technique that they use might not be what another therapist considers deep pressure. So communication between client and therapist is key. The therapist should check in and either check to see if the pressure is ok, or make it clear for the client to let them know if something is uncomfortable. Likewise, if a massage is too deep or uncomfortable, the client should speak up and let the therapist know that something needs to change. Sometimes it could in fact be the pressure that needs to change, or possibly something like the technique - the therapist should know what needs to happen, but won't know if they don't realize the client is uncomfortable.
Another reason that some people don't stop a painfully deep massage is because there is the thought out there that a massage has to be deep to be effective. No matter how much we try to educate people, many people believe that in the case of old injuries, chronic issues, or even just your run-of-the-mill stiff neck or sore "knots", the deeper the better, and a light pressure massage will not "work". This is simply not true. Deeper does not mean more effective or better. Sometimes lighter pressure or a technique that doesn't use a lot of pressure at all is just as effective, or even better for the condition being treated. There are a multitude of different massage modalities that may not need deep pressure to work, and that doesn't make them any less helpful. Once again, communication between client and therapist is the best way to ensure that the massage is beneficial for all involved.