Before I became part of the Wellness industry and was surrounded by Massage Therapists, I had one very strong opinion about massage. I felt that in order for a massage to be beneficial to me it had to hurt. I assumed (and we know what assuming gets you) that if I had knots and pain and discomfort the only way it was going to be better was for a Massage Therapist to press hard on those knots and rub hard on those knots until they dissipated. And though it would hurt, I would come away being better off then when I started. Well, 13 years later I have realized how wrong my opinion was, and not only that, but I realized just how many people agreed with that mentality.
The biggest thing that I have realized over my 13 years is that there are a variety of therapeutic massage techniques, some of which do not include firm pressure. Let’s use Manual Lymphatic Drainage as an example. MLD is a gentle massage that encourages the natural drainage of the lymph (which carries waste products away from the tissues). It helps remove swelling in areas that cause you discomfort. At no point in a MLD massage are you screaming “mommy”.
So where did the thought process come from that in order to get rid of chronic tension patterns, you had to have a Deep Tissue Massage? Well my best guess, and where I made my conclusion from was the infamous media. At one point or another I think all of us have watched a person (usually a very “manly” man) on T.V. lie on a massage table with a small massage therapist over him making him yelp in pain because his arm is twisted behind him and she is jabbing her elbow into his shoulder blade while standing on his back. That type of massage makes good T.V.. A massage where a very light pressure is being used doesn’t do much for the audience. Only recently have we been able to visualize other types of massage due to reality television.
After having that mentality for so long it then becomes a question of what you personally are looking for when you come in to get a massage. My best suggestion is to be open with the person on the phone of the areas you are concerned about and then being open again with your massage therapist. Each therapist is trained in a variety of techniques to help you feel better. It might not be a technique you are familiar with, but if you tell your therapist that you have chronic pain in your shoulder blades then during that service they are going to do everything they can to help your chronic pain in your shoulder blades. What you might actually find is that a therapist in that situation might work your pecs more than your shoulders….WHAT?? WHY??. Well when you sit at desks, type on computers, or are repetitively hunched forward your pecs become increasingly tight and in turn they pull your shoulder blades forward, which in turn makes your shoulder blade area hurt. So your assumption might be that you need work on your shoulder blades, preferably some trigger point release, but what you will find is that swedish techniques on your pecs gives you longer lasting results.
After reading this my plea to everyone is that you go into a massage with an open mind, that you speak openly about your concerns, pain, tension, etc., and that following a massage you reassess how you feel and not how you felt during the service. If you concentrate solely on what you feel “should” be happening throughout you might miss what actually happened.
~ Dana Neal – Spa Manager