Small Business Saturday – Another Shopping Holiday?

When more than 50% of the workforce in the United States works in a Small Business1, it’s no wonder that American Express’s wildly-catchy Small Business Saturday has joined the shopping Holiday Season immediately following Black Friday, the Saturday before Cyber Monday.

141125 SBS-AX imagePre-Black Friday – Opinions?

The mega-companies that have been trying to up the stakes and increase Our Calendars’ real estate for their marketing and spending of Holiday Season dollars that they “own” in the season of buying where “the best deals” are offered have been plagued with the fruits of their labor…namely their labor issues, public-created mob mentalities with SUPER-early store openings on Black Friday (even as far ahead as “the day before” – Thanksgiving Day) and rock-bottom pricing, and the fallout from companies that provide products that are just released and fighting to get shelf space and air-time for their commercials…by starting the shopping Season earlier.

Personally, I have always worked in the customer/guest service industry and have been working on holidays as long as I can remember.  When I gained enough seniority to be able to pick a holiday that I wanted to be “off”, I always picked Thanksgiving.  To me, Thanksgiving is a time to be WITH family and friends and enjoy the many wonderful blessings and fortunes that we have amassed throughout the year – a good harvest, to be acknowledged and enjoyed by all…no matter how epic or quaint the celebration.

Complaints by employees and customers alike of super-chains like Walmart, Target, Macy’s…to name a few…that will be open on Thanksgiving Day around 5pm or 6pm makes people start wondering about the fairness of it all.  Websites and Facebook Pages dedicated to supporting businesses who treat their employees in a more traditional sense – letting them be with their families ON the holiday itself – are springing up.  They are eager to promote personal time spent at home, with families, and promulgators and critics supporting family values by listing the stores, in their local areas, that will be open for business.  This serves two purposes:

  1. it tells people who do want to break away from tradition for shopping, where to shop on Thanksgiving; and,
  2. it tells people who do not want to break away from Tradition where NOT to shop on any other day of the upcoming & soon-to-follow shopping Holiday, if visibly ‘not supporting’ those non-Traditional companies is their goal.

Another ploy for your holiday dollars?

I think the media and marketing mogul mayhem created by this frenzied, fanatical firestorm is a choice of the American Consumer – it is an environment that is created by giga-companies, but can be tamed and diminutized by the patrons of these giga-companies.  I found an interesting analysis of the past 6-8 years’ trend of holiday shopping windows of time becoming earlier…and more spread out…to get away from the mayhem.  And: what is the ‘hourly changing of prices’ the author is referring to?  Wicked…and not Customer- or Experience-Oriented.

But, still: is Small Business Saturday just another ploy to garner your hard-earned dollars?

To me, American Express made an investment in one of the fastest-growing markets in America today – small business owners – when they made popular, through marketing and strategic social media alliances, their campaign back in 2010.

You may not know this, but American Express invested in small businesses through social media that has brought attention and notoriety to brick and mortar establishments that would otherwise be lost in the fray of the larger, giga-companies whose practices seem to reflect the nature of their sizeable beast.

Click on the image to enlarge @ Column Five Media

Click on the image to enlarge @ Column Five Media

I think small businesses today, and in the foreseeable future, offer a personalized touch that aims to support not only their own families and employees, but also the neighborhoods’ efforts to build community and a sense of belonging – a value that the giga-companies strive to but seemingly and evidentially do not achieve as a whole.

So, Yes: it is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to smaller companies and highlight the features and benefits of becoming familiar with and a regular part of the community in which a customer lives.

Remote, a number, a statistic, a target, a segment, an audience: these are all phrases and senses of identity that alienate a customer when folded into the theories and practices of capitalism from a skyscraper’s corner, window office.  These are practices of giga-companies and there is no way around it – it is their nature.  To manage such enormous expectations of service and protection from liability, these terms become every day terms of endearment for their customers.

Discovering Value – “on Sale”…or not

When a person shops local, buys local, and reinvests locally, with a known, well-reputed small business, they are building experiences that put themselves in the context of community, confidence, commiseration, and collaboration.

There are over 22 million self-employed small businesses in the United States2 – over 50% of the working 120 million individuals in the U.S. work in a small business3.

The internet is such a great place to discover small businesses these days – from reviews by real people (read “why they’re important”, at Milo), to product availability and delivery to your door, virtual tours of establishments, to video interview with the owners themselves, discovering local businesses has never been more accessible…and desired by customers and residents in the neighborhood (see infographic Figure).

Shameless plug for Hands In Motion Therapeutic Massage services

I invite you to celebrate small businesses – When it comes to investigating and investing in your health, discover if massage therapy is a part of your health care goals.  Read about massage, about me, my client testimonials and reviews on Yelp, and contact me, via email or give me a call, if you want to know more about my practice, schedule an appointment, or get a referral to a qualified healthcare practitioner – I will do my best to make sure your needs are fulfilled.

To help you understand massage and my practice a little better, I am offering a $20 savings on your next 60-minute massage with me in December – regular price: $70.  I come to your home with table, linens, music, and an eclectic style of massage that integrates all the modalities you might need to relax, relieve pain, or mentally restart your kinetic chain or neural patterning.

I look forward to seeing you for your massage – the sooner, the better!

Click HERE to schedule your December #SmallBusinessSaturday Signature Massage

SNEAK PEEK at HIM’s November 29th-ONLY #SmallBusinessSaturday Special!

#SBS Signature Massage – 60 mins

_______________________________________________________________________

A therapeutic massage that is developed specifically for you, based on your needs at the time of session.  Utilizes a variety of modalities, including: Swedish, Russian Sports, Trigger Point Therapy, and Structural Integration, to name a few.  Deep or Moderate pressure are always optional and included in this eclectic method.

60 minutes – $50

No other discounts or promotions/programs apply – One per client, please. Location of outcall massage must be within HIM’s business license jurisdictions (Cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and Clark County – map) and is based on availability (appointment only).  IS TRANSFERRABLE.  MUST be used by December 31, 2014 – if scheduled after, regular pricing (“$70”) applies – you may pay the difference upon delivery of service. Ω

 

1 generally, less than 500 employees – more: https://www.sba.gov/content/what-sbas-definition-small-business-concern
2 according to Forbes in a Sep 2013 publication – Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/09/09/16-surprising-statistics-about-small-businesses/
3 according to Forbes in a Sep 2013 publication – Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/09/09/16-surprising-statistics-about-small-businesses/

Deep Tissue Issues: No Pain, No Damage

Deep Tissue Massage is a term that is both comforting and productive when you think about getting a massage.  As a client, you might want to “get out the knots” or “alleviate pain” in a particular area of your body.  As a therapist, there is a plan, a particular intent to achieving a successful feeling of relief for your client at the end of a massage or a series of massages.  But the client takes a risk receiving a deep tissue massage from a therapist they haven’t worked with before OR from whom they’ve never asked for a “deep tissue” massage.  This article addresses method, concerns, and resolutions to requesting, anticipating, and giving & receiving a deep tissue massage, for clients and therapists.

The Plan

Clients often respond to their therapist’s question “What areas would you like me to work on today?” with designating specific areas that they have recently been feeling pain in or having issues with.  It is common for the therapist to devise a plan to address those areas with some specific work, using a specific method.  This need expressed by the client and solution presented by the therapist is very often verbally communicated, but sometimes is expressed through body language during the massage session.

Your massage therapist can and should comply with verbal direction…immediately. It is critical that for a successful session, for the client to experience relief without pain, that the therapist be aware of the boundaries of the muscle that s/he is addressing at any given time.

Intent. Deep Tissue massage, when done correctly, allows the most pressure to be delivered for proper physiological response – a “release” to occur – and leaves the tissue specifically worked undamaged.  Too much pressure can damage tissue, causing micro-tears in the fibers or bruising.  Too little pressure is simply ineffective for the purposes of release and resetting of the fibers.

What It Is. Many times, therapists will ask a client “do you bruise easily?” to clarify the client’s propensity for damage to the tissue, if they are aware and may have a prior experience with bruising after a deep tissue massage.  The client may be advised that, if they do bruise easily, that it may be a result of the deep tissue work they’re about to perform, the unusual pressure that will be delivered to any specific area, and that the response or failure of the tissue to release during or before the eventual lengthening effect the work will have this effect.

What it “could be”. Most times, it is the non-verbal communication by the client that presents a challenge to the therapist in understanding what muscles and systems need and have the ability to be addressed on a deeper level, by both the client and the therapist.  I believe that effective, non-verbal communication is crucial to delivering a well-planned and effective deep tissue session.

Receiving a Deep Tissue Massage

for the massage client

During the massage, although you may have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction initially, first try to consciously and verbally express any discomfort – you may allow the therapist to “dig in” and allow the elbow, knuckles, or pointed tool (like finger tips), to access the areas where you’re feeling the chronic or acute pain, thereby increasing the sensation of pain that often accompanies the massage work.  BUT, if you anticipate or there is sharp pain or increased, persistent pain, you should tell your therapist…it is commonly understood by therapists: this is not the intent of deep tissue massage.

Why not? When there is pain, the body automatically (on a conscious or unconscious level) enters a protection mode – during this time, the brain is trained to respond to the type of pain in the area of the body where it is being experienced, and will, over time, automatically respond in the same, defensive manner by splinting, or tightening up, the muscle that is being targeted for massage.  When a muscle is engaged, or shortened, massage has a substantially less (if any) effect on the targeted, now short, muscle.

Since the intention of a [deep tissue] massage is to relax, or lengthen, muscles, this response to pain – the shortening, contraction, or engagement of the muscle, (spoken or not, conscious or unconscious) does not help the tissue or the therapist to get where they need to be, organically or procedurally, to release the tissue.  Longer times or multiple sessions with the same muscle are needed for massage therapy to be applied if the threshold of pain is crossed too often, resulting in little or no effect on the target muscle or muscle group.

Pressure needs to be lessened or another technique used to relax the tissue, so ‘deep tissue’ becomes a modality that is ineffective if it is no longer used during the session due to the body protecting the muscle.

So, communicate verbally and non-verbally with your therapist so s/he understands that deep tissue massage techniques are or are not appropriate at the right times.

for the massage therapist

Clients may not understand, be able to tell you, or even want to tell you about the pain they may be anticipating or actually experiencing because s/he may believe it is a part of the healing process.

Therapist Awareness. Beingness can be defined as the therapist’s state of awareness – a ‘listening’ state – that includes anticipation of what the tissue needs (or doesn’t, when it comes to pressure) – simply being aware of how the tissue reacts to touch, pressure, and manipulation is SO important.

Before the session. To avoid micro-damage to the targeted muscle or surrounding area and to avoid any long-term discomfort from the massage or a complaint phone call, explain to them your understanding of pain as associated with deep tissue massage, ask their understanding, and then come to an agreement of what it is that’s in your scope to practice and what they can expect to be a “deep tissue” massage from you.

Coach them on how to communicate with you during the session, verbally.  It is much better to be able to respond immediately to verbal and non-verbal cues from your client – be in a ‘listening state’.

Always ask for feedback if you felt the session was intense for your client, based on their comments or their body language.  It is better to address the concern closer to the session on which the feedback is based so you can effectively help them recover, avoid, or even expect what they may perceive as a negative experience.

  • If you get feedback immediately following the session, respond immediately: a simple suggestion on how to clear the interstitial space that harbors blood causing the appearance of a bruise will help them recover more quickly.
  • Ask them to wait a few days to update you or observe how they feel: often times the client will feel much better than before the massage, even though there are some sensitive bruises present.

If you get feedback from your client that they bruised last time you worked on them, be ultra-sensitive to that fact and recall the amount of pressure you delivered last session with him/her and start off with conservative pressure.  The client should be able to remind you or make you aware of any thresholds they are getting ready to cross based on their experience with you.  Compassion and action will guide you to deliver a conservative yet effective pressure.

some explanations of a “bad” deep tissue massage

Therapist Inexperience. There is one saving grace for a therapist that technically is not experienced or experienced enough in a client’s eyes.  That is: the ability to ‘listen and act.’  Verbal and non-verbal cues given by a client receiving deep work are ALWAYS important information that a trained therapist needs to be able to act on.  A good therapist, no matter their tenure in practice, will immediately respond/act on the client’s given information.  How they act can always be in the best interest of the health of the client.

Client Inexperience. In my experience, when someone tells me they ‘like it really deep’, a flag goes up…the acceptance or need for pain to achieve a psychological level of relief is not within my scope as a massage therapist to address, and this is something I advise my clients of.  So, here are some of my thoughts on ‘why people tell their next therapist that they’ve had massage that hurt in the past:’

On the other hand, in the case a client does not like pain as a side-order of their deep tissue massage, I believe some clients wait to tell their next therapist that their last massage was “too deep” for any one or more of these reasons:

  • Politeness. They may not have been able to mentally bring themselves to tell their last therapist during the session.  It’s not the therapist’s fault or it’s not in the client’s nature to say something to cause what the client his/herself would perceive as conflict in an environment that they want to be stress-free.  If the MT did a good job of creating that environment of relaxation and trust, then the last thing I think the client wants to do is rain on anyone’s parade.
  • Bad Customer Service. Generally, “bad” experiences are related more quickly and often than good ones – it is a customer service fact, proven time and time again in many types of business, including a massage therapy practice.  It could be a form of release for the client, but if we communicate with and coach them to properly assess and classify their massage experiences, there’s less reason for the client to complain to the next MT (who can themselves literally do nothing to change the client’s previous experience).

Be a Proactive Therapist When Faced With A Complaint About “My Last Massage…”

Here are a number of things I may ask of and communicate to a client that has had a bad deep tissue experience and who is now relating it to me:

1.      Empathize/Sympathize with his/her situation

2.      Educate, through asking key questions, like:

a.      “Did you tell your therapist?  If you did, then you need to stop the session next time

b.      “Did you tell your therapist afterward?  There might be other considerations in your physical condition that the therapist can further advise you on how to resolve if massage causes pain for you…”

c.      “Did you drink enough water before your massage? (Do you think you might have been dehydrated?)“…and then tell them the effects of ‘not enough water’ on tissue during a massage…

d.      “Did you have an injury in the area or anomaly that you didn’t have in previous sessions that could have been negatively affected by massage?”  The client could have a condition that they don’t know about of which peripheral neuropathy is a symptom, like Fibromyalgia Syndrome or Lupus or Diabetes.  Or they could’ve had a couple of alcoholic drinks or were on medication that reduces mechanical sensory input.

e.      “How long was it since your last massage (before your bad massage)?“…and then tell them about tissue memory & elasticity and how ‘getting back into the groove’ can be a factor in what depth they can receive after a long stay away from deep massage.

3.      Define my relationship with this client (in so many words, and without saying: I am not “their last therapist”) – assure him/her that I will be aware of their needs and requests at all times during the deep tissue massage.

Avoid a potential ‘bad’ massage because of ineffective communication

A massage therapist’s depth can be perceived as invasive, intrusive, and inconsiderate, BUT – when I understand why Clients complain to the next therapist, I realize there is NOT A THING I can do about it…eg. to change their behavior.  All I can do is change my own.  Following are some scenarios I’ve experienced and consider when I think there is [going to be] a ‘too deep’ issue:

1.      Problem: The client didn’t tell the therapist ‘it’s too deep’ – It could be that the client didn’t feel like they could say anything to their MT about the discomfort – maybe they didn’t feel like their feedback would be welcome.  so they go ahead and receive a massage that’s ‘too deep’.

Solution: In reply to the question “how’s that pressure?’ a client says “good” in that monotone voice, change something: either go deeper, change speed, go lighter, slow down – something’s not satisfactory to the client.  Now: you can’t squeeze it out of them, so ask again about the pressure at another point – while you’re touching the client, doing the deep work.

2.      Problem: They haven’t had a massage in a while – often, getting a massage after not having one for a while is like getting back into the gym after you’ve been out several months after previously going 3 times a week.  Muscles are stretched, poked, and pressed…and the fibers are not always as flexible or elastic as the client thought they would be.

Solution: Preset your ‘deep scale’ to a lighter mode – and tell them that’s what you’re doing!  If you set the expectation, they will be happy…because what you said would happen, is happening during the massage 🙂

3.      Problem: The client didn’t drink enough water before the massage – water is a medium that is essential for the muscle tissue and fascia to move easily over itself.  Without the lubricant internally as well as externally, friction causes irritation and possibly inflammation on, at least, a microscopic level…thus, the discomfort.

Solution: give them water – tell them why you’re suggesting water for them…that minute!  Explain that preparing for a massage with drinking water can reduce the pain they might experience after a deeper massage.

4.      Problem: The client is experiencing changes in their metabolism or other physical changes are occurring.

Solution: be aware of conditions, considerations, and contraindications for doing massage.  If you have a question about practicing on a person with or in a particular condition, you might always want to preface

Some bottom line solutions for me, as a massage therapist:

  • I am open to constructive and even negative criticism – I realize that I am there to facilitate his/her healing.
  • If I don’t exercise due diligence in making sure at any point that my client is happy with the pressure, I risk a client complaining later, either to me (after the fact) or to another therapist.

Ultimately: What Works

Some clients like the ‘hurts so good’ feeling, and they always are sore the next day – this can be a sought after feeling for some clients who psychologically are subjecting themselves to pain inflicted by another for something that is out of the scope of the MT’s control.  Maybe after they’re sore the next day, the following day they feel great!  This could be a method of healing for them, psychologically and physically.

There are conditions that I’ve seen that benefit from being sore during the massage or even the next day – one condition of the client is that of fibromyalgia.  FibroMyalgia Syndrome (FMS) patients take the pain in order to feel great the next day – there are some FMS patients that have enough experience to realize that the positive effects of the pain experienced during a deep tissue massage are worth experiencing the pain of the moment (during a massage, deep tissue or otherwise).

When I look at the overall meaning of the term “deep tissue”, it means to me a level of awareness and that I need to have a heightened sense of listening and responsiveness to my client’s needs.  When a client requests this as a modality (on a menu, for example) I think they have been trained to understand, through experience or explanation, that “deep tissue” is a mode of performing a massage.  In fact, I understand “deep tissue massage” to be a technique of Swedish massage or a technique encompassed by another modality which indicates a level of superficial or profound system or musculature address.

The client misperception of the term “deep tissue” also indicates to me that the client is expecting a predetermined protocol and that they are willing and able to compromise their comfort level of receiving, risking tissue damage, to order what they perceive as a higher level of massage session.  Why would a professional set up an expectation for their client of “more pain(ful), more gain(ful)” in what is perceived as a predetermined and traditionally-accepted menu format?  For me, the depth and need for any specific level of pressure is always determined per client AND by session, and can vary greatly from health condition to season.

I have always been a proponent for a “one price massage”, removing what I believe is a misconception that the depth of a massage is more valuable the deeper it is.  Deeper does not necessarily mean “more therapeutic” – appropriate depth IS more therapeutic.  You could be an athlete that just ran a marathon: deep tissue is not appropriate up to 24 hours post-event.  You could be a cancer patient and deep tissue could NOT be appropriate only in certain areas or affecting certain systems.  You could be suffering from edema or lymphedema, whereby a diagnosis and working with the client’s doctor is more appropriate before applying deep strokes that can be damaging, or at the least, ineffective.

Ultimately. In my opinion, the client determines depth of stroke on a session-by-session, moment-by-moment, and stroke-by-stroke basis – and needs to be understood and applied immediately, appropriately, effectively, and compassionately – as to not do harm – by every massage therapist.

Take these thoughts and suggestions with you and see your massage become more productive – every time you get a deep tissue massage.

Abdominal & Pelvic Massage and Women’s Health Issues

deeper pressure addresses physiological aspects of the abdomen

deeper pressure addresses physiological aspects of the abdomen

Massage Therapists are trained to do abdominal and pelvic massage – this type of massage on the area of the torso can be physiological or energetic in nature. A therapist can assist in the movement of blood, toxins, muscle tissue, and visceral structures physiologically, and move energies related to the Hara, kidneys (Jing), and aura.

the Hara is believed to exist 3 finger-widths below & deep to the navel

the Hara is believed to exist 3 finger-widths below & deep to the navel

Several structures in the lower female pelvis are the apparatus that allows a woman to bear another human being. The ovaries produce and release eggs that travel down the uterine (Fallopian) tubes monthly, taking a 5-day journey to attempt to attach to the tissue nest of greatly-available blood and nutrients, the endometrium lining that the uterus has prepared all month (approximately every 28 days). The eggs are most likely to be fertilized in that journey down the uterine (Fallopian) tube. If the eggs are not fertilized within a certain amount of time, hormones communicate that the nest of blood and nutrients needs to be shed in the menses and the cycle starts at the beginning again.
No matter the reason for a massage therapist to choose to work on the abdominal and pelvic area, there are some conditions a therapist and their client need to be aware of when addressing the female reproductive system. Several conditions that women regularly and/or naturally experience in the pelvic area and that are of concern in the area of massage therapy include: use of birth control, dysmenorrhea, spontaneous and elective abortion, endometriosis, and fibroid tumors.
Birth control pills are used to tell the brain that the body is pregnant, thereby stopping the flow of hormones that prepare the body for fertilization and pregnancy. Massage in the pelvic area is appropriate when considering this form of health affectation.
Dysmenorrhea, referred to more commonly as a painful menstrual period, is defined by the woman’s experience of limiting activities for at least 1 day every month because of symptoms of dull aching or sharp severe lower abdominal pain – accompanying nausea and vomiting are also signs of dysmenorrhea. It is not advisable for massage to be done on the area of localized pain within the first two days that symptoms show – it is advisable to use reflexive techniques and massage all other indicated areas of the body.
Spontaneous Abortion, an unintentional termination of a pregnancy, can happen in many stages of pregnancy and for many reasons, many having to do with the overall & systemic health of the mother and the ability of the egg or fetus to survive in the health of the mother’s uterus. Elective Abortion, an intentional termination of a pregnancy, can also happen for many health-related reasons. In either the case of spontaneous or elective abortion, the lining of the uterus is disrupted and needs time to heal. Massage in the pelvic region is not appropriate after a spontaneous or elective abortion until after bleeding has stopped and there is no sign of infection. Client and therapist should be aware of doctor recommendations for massage therapy if an abortion occurred less than 6 weeks ago.
Endometriosis is a resultant condition of the non-exiting (in menstruation) tissue fragments of the endometrium (of the uterus) attaching to other cells and structure in the body. Circulation and implantation of the endometrial cells produces “blood blisters” or clear vesicles in early years – in later years, the implanted cells will grow over, appearing black and scarred. Massage therapy is not advised in the area of the diagnosis of endometriosis, especially during menstruation. Diagnoses have been known to displace structures in the area of endometriosis (usually in the pelvic region), so care in providing and receiving pelvic work is suggested for locally diagnosed endometriosis.
Fibroid Tumors grow in or around the uterus, mostly undetected (because of their small size) and exist in a postulated 20-30% of women between 30 and 50 years old¹. Symptoms of small fibroids are unrealized while in diagnosed cases of larger fibroids can reveal symptoms of mechanical pressure on other structures (including nerves) in the pelvic area and increased menstrual bleeding. Massage is suggested in pelvic areas other than the uterus if there is a diagnosis of fibroid tumors – as large fibroids can displace other structures in the pelvic area, massage is not appropriate in the area of the uterus.

finger-tip massage done at the transverse abdominal wall

finger-tip massage done at the transverse abdominal wall

Here are some points to consider when going for your therapeutic massage and your therapist does pelvic work:

  1. Deep work in the pelvic area is not generally practiced in massage therapy, although a few modalities address the pelvic region using deep tissue techniques. A client should always ask and the therapist should always explain what the intent of their work is deep in the pelvis.
  2. Deep work in the pelvic or abdominal area is generally not advised on days of heavy menstrual flow. Many other massage therapy techniques can be used by a therapist to alleviate symptomatic experiences of pain and discomfort.
  3. Let your massage therapist know if you’ve been experiencing conditions related to your health as a woman, so your therapist may best serve you and deliver the most appropriate method to improve your health and well-being.
  4. Your therapist may also let you know about structures s/he feels (literally) may be abnormal or out of place; the therapist may also refer you to a qualified health care provider that s/he knows personally in order to assist you in achieving a level of wellness or “peace of mind” – listen, and visit that doctor or qualified practitioner who can help you determine what the issue is and how to improve your overall health.
  5. As with all other areas of the body, the pressure should be delivered by the therapist and experienced by the client at a level that is comfortable and expected. Any level of discomfort beyond acceptable standards of the client needs to be recognized and addressed by the client so the therapist can respond appropriately.
  6. Most of all, enjoy your pelvic massage! It increases the internal health of the abdomen, strengthening, circulating, and stimulating movement in the organs and musculature, making your entire body healthier!
¹”A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology,” Ruth Werner, 1998, p. 331

To Deep…or Not Too Deep? Bodies on the Table Series

Massage is a great way to relieve stress, deepornot01588x400get all the toxins out, and just feel centered and relaxed in general. But there is a science to what your bodyworker is doing and how your body responds while you are zoning out to the tunes of nature on the beach and breathing deeply before you sink into that half-conscious Zen state after your session has started. Let’s find out what happens to your body while you are getting bodywork!
In this series of articles, we’ll talk about the physical responses of your body when you are receiving bodywork. We’ll address many aspects of what is happening in your body that gives you that “I feel like Jell-o” sensation when you get off the table or floor!
In this article, let’s talk about the depth of the stroke of a massage therapist. There are many preferences for the pressure that you may ask for in your massage. Some like a relaxing massage that incorporates flowing, rhythmic, or fluid strokes that are felt all over the body. Some like an invigorating massage that stimulates, encourages an increased circulation, or really addresses the “knots” you’ve been battling with for quite sometime or just recently. No matter your preference, your therapist is considering your physical response to the application of each stroke throughout the session.
Massage carries the connotation and characteristics of a good stretching workout. Your therapist manipulates your muscle tissue and fascia ultimately lengthening the fibers. They press, increasing the distance between the attachments of your muscles. This pressing, or lengthening, of the muscle resets the areas of muscle and tissue where chronic or acute shortness occurs. It also releases toxins into the surrounding space in between the muscle cells and tissues in your body.
The pressure by which your muscle and tissue is lengthened can cause micro-tears and damage to the cells, even in healthy tissue. Sometimes you may feel sore after a massage. There are several reasons you may feel this; one reason may be that your muscles are repairing themselves from the micro-tears that have been sustained from a firm massage or stretching session.
deepornot02588x400Part of the way your therapist detects how hard to press or squeeze is by your verbal communication indicating “That’s a little too much pressure” or “You can go harder, if you want.” The other way your therapist knows how much pressure to apply is by the holding or contraction of the muscle (or surrounding musculature) that is being addressed with the stroke. If your muscle tightens or you tighten up throughout the area, this is your body’s way of protecting itself from the micro- or macro-scopic damage that could be easily caused by “too much” pressure. Bruising may even occur, although rare, and only in cases where your physical condition is more prone to bruising, even in a specific area of the body.
There are many ways to recognize the best pressure for your body.

    1. If it is your first massage, let your therapist determine the depth of the stroke by applying the stroke in every area of the massage: notice the areas in which you may want more or less pressure in the future.
    2. If you have just completed and athletic event, it is always best to receive a more relaxing technique of massage in order not to damage the muscles further and to allow the muscle to recover and repair without inhibition.
    3. The amount of muscle or tissue you have is not always directly proportional to the amount of pressure you “need;” pressure preferences can range from little muscle needs a lot of pressure to much muscle needs a little pressure.
    4. Depending on your experience and habit of receiving bodywork, you may graduate into a deeper pressure the more you receive massage; if you get massage weekly, it is safe to have deeper pressure as your cells will be used to and will recognize the power of a deeper massage, especially on the deep layers of muscle that are hard to get to or have not been addressed yet.

In any case, always give verbal feedback if the pressure is too much or too little for your taste, but ultimately trust the therapist to “know when to say when” in order to avoid macro-scopic damage or other negative physical responses based on your health condition at the time of your session.
With regular massage (and stretching) your body soon comes to realize that longer muscles are more efficient and work better and are in less pain more often. The cells in your tendons that detect the length of a muscle are able to pay less attention to the shortness of the muscle and spend more time on kicking back and enjoying the massage!