In my early days as a Massage Therapist, a big macho male client would walk into my office wanting a deep tissue massage. He would look at my small stature and youthful glow (this is 10 years ago, mind you) and ask if I was capable of offering such a massage with the pressure they required.
I would smile and assure him that it would be ok, while inwardly rolling my eyes and wishing I could dig my elbow in as hard as I could just to teach them a thing or two about the power of proper body mechanics!
Though I did take the high road and not punish them with my deep pressure wrath, I did take a moment to tell them that "deep tissue" means getting deep into the tissue, not always using deep, painful pressure.
You see, the body tenses up when it doesn't feel safe. When we push too hard, be it with pressure, while we work out, or just in life in general, it can actually cause us to tense more, instead of releasing and relaxing.
I see this a lot with stretching, as well. We want to rush and force ourselves into a certain stretch, but that force can signal a stress response and keep us from stretching further. Most of us are more flexible than we think, it's our approach that's the problem.
One of my yoga teachers would say, "With yoga, it's no pain, all gain," meaning that when we don't feel pain, that's when the magic happens. That's when it becomes therapeutic. And I have come to believe that 100%.
When we feel actual pain, that's when injury can happen. And it's important in any activity or treatment to be present and recognize the good kind of discomfort and the bad.
In my bodywork sessions, I tell my clients that the pressure intensity should never go above a 7 on a scale of 1-10. Once you go above a 7, that's when other areas of the body tend to tense up and it has a hard time receiving the therapy.
Say you don't ever get massages or stretch and the like. How does this all apply to you?
This same kind of tuning in can be used when exerting yourself in any way. Powering through shoulder pain when doing yard work, for example. Seems like an ok idea for the short term, but before you know it, you've got some serious shoulder issues going on.
Remember, if you don't listen to your body whisper, you will have to hear it scream.
There are always exceptions and times when we gotta feel some pain, but the point is, that way of life needs to become the exception, not the norm.
Now, whatever happened to our well intentioned macho man client? The interesting thing is that he actually couldn't handle deep pressure at all. He would ask for deeper pressure through clenched teeth, but his body was so wound up that he automatically resisted any intervention, poor guy. But through easing up and working with the tension, instead of against it, progress was made.
As with all things self care, tune in. Get to know your therapeutic stopping points. When we aren't in constant pain, we have so much more to gain.
Until next time,
Take good care.