A client of mine was moving to another state so I helped her find a list of myofasical release therapists in her new town. A few weeks later, she contacted me about a rather intense session with her new therapist and asked me about the amount of pressure she should receive. She had gotten use to the gentle MFR approach and wasn’t sure what to think when she was given a much stronger massage.
So how much is too much when it comes to pressure?
Ok, so let’s start off with the problem. Somehow, we’ve got it in our heads that if a massage isn’t painful, it isn’t helping. And people ran with it because on some level it’s easy to see why it’s plausible. No pain, no gain. Right?
Often, when I’m working with a new client and I ask about the pressure, they will respond with, “you can use more.” Given the above, this response is not surprising. It isn’t the client’s fault. You’ve had this drilled into your heads by society and had no reason to question. You had no way of knowing it’s just not true.
Let me start off with a question. You have two options to make a $1000. Option A is drive to a grocery store that is three hours away and buy me a loaf of bread and two apples. Or you can take option B and I’ll give you $1000 to drive ten minutes to the grocery store in your town and buy me a loaf of bread and two apples. Yes these examples are hypothetical. I’m not giving anyone a grand to get me these items from the grocery store, but if I were, Which option would you choose? Most people would chose option B, because why would you drive an extra 2 hours and 50 minutes when you can achieve the exact same results and only travel 10 minutes?
Same rule applies to the body. Why would I want to use more pressure, when I can produce the same, if not better, results with a more gentle approach? Our brains are wired for survival and protection to keep us safe. When a something comes at us too hard, say a soccer ball, we immediately tense up. We can’t help it–it’s our body’s reaction to defend itself. Remember back to the last time you had a vaccine. The nurse probably told you to relax your arm. That’s because when you tense up, it hurts a lot more. Your body is trying to protect you and make it harder for the object to penetrate your skin.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand shall we? When you are receiving bodywork and the therapist uses enough force to break down a garden fence, the body desperately tries to protect itself. As a result, the therapist may as well be pushing on a brick wall. They are going to be ineffective in causing lasting change and the client is likely to be extremely sore the next day. You need a therapist that will sink gently into the body to release restricted areas. The body doesn’t see the gentle approach as a threat; problem areas are much easier to get to and the client is much more likely to experience lasting relief.
So next time you go for a massage, challenge your belief system on deep massage and give the lighter pressures of myofascial release a go.
You’re body will be glad you did.