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Deep tissue massage FAQ

This is an excerpt from Deep Tissue Massage by Jane Johnson.

Commonly Asked Questions and Concerns

Following are some commonly asked questions and concerns along with answers and ideas for solutions.

  • I'm worried that when using my forearms, fists or elbows I will not be able to feel the client properly.
  • It is true that you have fewer sensory receptors in the skin of your forearms, fists and elbows compared to your hands and fingertips. However, many of the techniques described in this book rely on compression. You can sense compression without using your fingertips because you have sensory mechanoreceptors in the joints of your wrist, elbow and shoulder that transmit information to the brain concerning pressure. When you compress a tissue, what you are sensing is the resistance to that pressure, and you can do this without using your hands.
  • I'm using all of my force, but the client says it's still not strong enough.
  • Deep tissue massage is not about force but technique. Read How Do You Increase the Depth of Your Massage? in chapter 1, page 7. Other possibilities are to lower your treatment couch, make sure you have adequate leverage, choose different techniques and, in some cases, use less oil. If all else fails, refer the client to another therapist.
  • I'm concerned about the amount of pressure some clients demand. I can deliver this amount of pressure, but surely it's not good for them?
  • Document your treatment outcomes and watch for negative side effects. If the client reports feeling fine and there is no bruising, you should be okay to continue. However, remember that if you are anxious during treatment, the client will sense this.
  • I can never seem to get into the neck muscles properly. Is it safe to do deep tissue techniques to the neck?
  • Not all techniques are safe for use on the neck. Refer to the section on anatomical considerations on pages 24-27.
  • I'm worried I might hurt my client when using deep tissue techniques for the first time.
  • It is good to be cautious. Follow the guidelines for the application of these techniques in chapters 3 and 4. Practice on friends, family and colleagues before using them on clients. Incorporate the new techniques gradually into your treatment.
  • I'm concerned I'll cause bruising and the client will never come back.
  • Bruising is rare when deep tissue massage is used on healthy clients who are not contraindicated for massage. Follow the safety guidelines for applying the techniques, and always combine deep tissue techniques with lighter strokes to help disperse blood and soothe tissues.
  • Deep tissue techniques take longer to apply than Swedish massage. I want to use them but cannot extend the treatment time.
  • This simply means you cannot apply all techniques all over the body in a single treatment. Be selective. Avoid the temptation to use the techniques at the same speed as you apply Swedish massage—this can cause pain and bruising.
  • I have a fixed height treatment couch that cannot be lowered. Can I still use deep tissue techniques?
  • Solutions are to change the couch, get onto the couch or do treatments on the floor or seated. You might find that you can apply some of the techniques, but not all of them; you might even discover new ways to get better leverage.
  • I'm concerned that with all these extra techniques my massage treatments will feel disjointed.
  • When you first trained in massage you might have focused on the application of one technique, practicing to get it right. Or you might have used several techniques but focused on one part of the body, such as the back or legs. Any skill takes time to acquire, and with practice you will learn to incorporate your favourite techniques into a regular massage routine.
  • I'm not sure which of the techniques to use, and I wonder if clients will enjoy a deep tissue massage as much as a Swedish massage.
  • A simple way to alleviate your concerns is for you to receive deep tissue massage yourself, perhaps from a colleague using the techniques described in this book. Judge for yourself, first, if you can tell if the therapist is using the palms or forearms to effleurage; second, judge which parts of the body different techniques feel best on.
More Excerpts From Deep Tissue Massage