I’m all for deep tissue massage, don’t get me wrong. I DO deep tissue massage. The problem is that most people equate deep tissue with deep pressure… including many massage therapists. But they’re not the same thing at all.
Simply put: Deep tissue massage gets deep into the muscles of the body. Deep pressure uses a lot of pressure and/or force and may or may not get very deep.
Think about it this way: If a therapist is using so much pressure that you need to “breathe through it” or if your muscles tighten up under their elbow, they’re not going to be able to get very deep. At least not without hurting you. And by hurting, I mean creating small muscle tears.
It makes sense, right? If your tissue is resisting the therapist’s pressure, they’ll need to use more pressure to push through that. This creates more resistance which creates a need for more pressure which creates more resistance… you get the picture.
It’s a lot like trying to open the macaroni and cheese box by pushing the tab labeled “push here.” You press and you press and you press but the only thing that happens is the box getting further and further deformed. If, by chance, or through the sheer brute force of your abnormally strong thumb you manage to open it this way, the box is torn and demolished all around the area you were pressing.
Your massage therapist is that thumb and your body is the box. You really don’t want to be that box, do you? I didn’t think so.
Unlike the box, your body can and will heal from the micro tears. But why should it need to? It’s completely unnecessary because the same result can be achieved by working with your body instead of against it. Unless you’re a masochist (someone for whom pain is pleasurable), there’s no reason to get a deep pressure massage.
Let me sum up:
Deep pressure often works against your body and is a great way to cause micro tears and other injuries to the muscles.
True deep tissue works with the body. It is deceptively pleasant *most* of the time. It requires patience as the practitioner waits for the client’s body to let their hands go deeper instead forcing their way in.
There are therapists out there who know the difference and I urge you to find one, if you haven’t already. Don’t injure your body in the process of trying to heal it.