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Deep Tissue Massage Should Not Leave You In Pain

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I am often asked if I provide deep tissue massage.  I do, but I perform it differently to not have my clients leave in pain.  Some people fear deep tissue massage because it hurts.  Old massage methodology uses thumb and elbow direct pressure.  This often causes small tears in muscle and connective tissue which causes pain.  While it does accomplish the muscle letting go and restoring range of motion, the damage to tissue may leave a client aching for up to three days while the tears heal.  When muscle strains and aches require a deeper form of massage to affect release, this can be accomplished in many different ways that are not painful and do not cause additional tissue damage.

Personally, I use two main protocols to release and relax muscle spasms and contractions.  The first is muscle energy technique (MET).  When a muscle goes into spasm from overwork or strain, it contracts and holds causing achiness and shortening that in turn reduces range of motion.  With MET I ask the client to gently contract the affected muscle, relax it, and then repeat this procedure three to four times.  What happens is the affected muscle is put through its normal contract/relax action.  The fibers in involuntary spasm then respond to the voluntary contract/relax pattern and begin to release. It is vitally important to understand muscle actions for MET to be effective.

The second protocol I use is called Positional Release Therapy (PRT).  Again, this requires knowledge in how muscles work, their origin and insertion points, and other muscle supporting structures. With PRT, I locate points in muscles that hurt, then position the body in such a way that the pain turns off.  Then I hold the client in that position for a period of time.  What causes the release of the spasms is a new communication between the muscle receptors and the brain.  When pain occurs, the brain releases a chemical, ironically called Chemical P, to the affected muscle and it begins to ache.  This causes us to protect the area.  When the pain point is turned off, a new communication is sent to the brain from the muscle receptors basically saying, “all better.”  Chemical P stops arriving, the muscle slowly relaxes, and the lymph system carries away pain and acid residues.

These two protocols are extremely effective in releasing muscle aches without pain using the body’s own physiology and innate wisdom to correct and heal itself.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, is the founding member of The Sandpoint Wellness Council and owns Touchstone Massage Therapies and Nutrition Plus!     She may be reached at 208/290-6760.

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