I am now retired from the massage industry, however, in my former professional massage practice, I specialized in therapeutic massage for pain relief.
My practice was not really the place for gentle relaxation massage or the foo-foo-fluff like a swanky day spa. There were no body treatments or seaweed wraps. If you were looking to fall asleep or have just a light touch relaxation massage, I wa NOT the massage therapist for you.
That’s not to say my massage clients didn’t relax. They absolutely did! But my goal wasn’t to make clients fall asleep. My goal was specific, targeted, therapeutic work for PAIN RELIEF.
If you came in with physical pain, especially in your shoulder, back, neck, or hip, I targeted the session to the specific areas of pain, so that we maximized our time together.
In other words, if you had low back pain, I focused my time on your back and other areas related to the low back like glutes, piriformis, IT bands, and such. It’s not likely I’d spend any time on your arms or hands in a targeted session for your low back.
True therapeutic massage is targeted to a specific pain or dysfunction.
Did clients feel better after their session was complete? Yes. Were clients magically “fixed” in an hour? Probably not. Let’s be realistic. If you had pain for days, weeks, or months, one hour was not a cure all. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
Truly correcting dysfunction or relieving pain is a process. I took care to create a specific, targeted treatment plan for my clients, and we worked together to get them back to feeling great!
Now, you may be asking yourself… was my practice only strictly deep tissue work?
There is a BIG difference between “deep tissue” work and Therapeutic Massage. And while Therapeutic Massage may incorporate deeper therapy work, it does not necessarily mean all deep work all the time.
I practiced Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief.
The term “deep tissue” massage is a really subjective term. Here is how I work, and what makes my professional practice highly effective and vastly different than others:
I hold an advanced diploma in sports massage, and I am highly skilled and trained in myofascial release, trigger point therapy, active release technique (ART), soft tissue release, myoskeletal realignment, stretch, sports techniques, and more. I’m also a former endurance athlete, and I’ve felt similar pain to what many of my clients come to me for treatment with.
Because of my background and experience, I did happen to get a lot of clients that mistakenly thought I was the Deep Tissue Queen, and they requested “deep tissue” massage. What they really wanted is pain relief. But some were misguided to think “deep” tissue work and “therapeutic” work were one in the same.
If you came to my business thinking I was going to apply the deepest pressure ever, you would have been disappointed. If you came to me thinking I was going to do basic Swedish techniques, only very deep and verrrrrry slowly, you also would have been disappointed.
Some people have this notion that deep tissue massage is ultra-deep pressure, as hard as the therapist can possibly work. Very often, clients would tell me “I have a high tolerance for pain, work as deep as you can”. Uhhhh… NO. This statement actually makes my eyeballs roll back in my head involuntarily. If I had a nickel for every time someone said this, I’d own my own tropical island by now.
Deep work is not always the best way to address an issue.. and deep work like this is NOT how I practiced my therapeutic massage work.
You see, we don’t have to pulverize the muscle into submission to get it to relax. Heavy, deep pressure in a massage is such a huge misconception! Not only can this sort of therapy leave bruises or damage to muscle tissue, it can actually stimulate resistance during the session, which is the opposite of the goal, and can further exacerbate an even more activated pain cycle.
Your body and your muscles may have “a high tolerance for pain”, but my goal was always to work with the muscles, NOT to work beyond what your muscles would tolerate. Nor was my goal to ever cause pain, tissue damage, or injury.
My goal was to work WITH the muscles to help them relax, let go of tension, and function better.
During a treatment session, I gave my clients a “pain scale” to judge the pressure. While this could differ in energy from one client to the next, the basics were the same. I told my clients that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being PAIN, any work I did should never go above a 7. This way, we allowed the muscle to relax. If we worked too hard or used too much pressure, the muscle resisted.
Pay attention, kids… I’m going to say that again, because it’s really important: If we worked too hard or used too much pressure, the muscle resisted.
If the muscles resist, they don’t relax. Which is actually the opposite of our goal for therapeutic massage for pain relief.
I didn’t want to battle muscles in every therapeutic session. I wanted to challenge them, yes… and work WITH them to do what they do naturally.
Working this way did not cause my client to be bruised, or feel like he or she got hit by a bus afterwards.
Therapeutic massage is not only just for big burly athletes. Therapeutic massage is for ANYONE who is experiencing pain! It’s for regular people like you and me, young, old, moms, dads, office workers, grannies, weekend warriors, power shoppers, computer gurus… anyone really, whether you’re active or sedentary… If you have pain, therapeutic massage can help!
Please keep these principles in mind when you book your favorite therapist for your next therapeutic massage!
Love, Cam xoxo