Deep Tissue Massages
Deep tissue massage is becoming a more and more popular type of massage, so it is important for those that have never received one, or may have had a bad experience, to know the difference between a good deep tissue massage, a bad deep tissue massage, and why when an RMT asks how the pressure feels, why it's important to be upfront and honest.
Before your first Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage utilizes more advanced techniques, and usually more direct pressure using thumbs, knuckles, forearms or elbows. I would not consider it a relaxing experience, but you can ask the therapist to mix in some other types of massage. If you have a lot of back problems, they can intersperse deeper techniques with more soothing, relaxing techniques. This may help prevent the area being treated from getting tender too quickly, and adds more enjoyment to your massage.
Just like most chefs specialize in one type of cuisine, Massage Therapists are better at some techniques than others. If you had a bad experience with one therapist's technique, does not mean it will happen with another therapist. Try to find a therapist who's technique works for you. We all have our preferred practitioners, just like a dental hygienist who knows how to get that perfect cleaning without stabbing your gums that you'll drive halfway across the city to see!
During your Treatment
Deep tissue massages tend to be more uncomfortable than a traditional swedish massage, so it is important to let the RMT know if the pressure is too much for you. The common "no pain no gain" ideology is backwards, and only your body knows how much pressure it can take, so speak up! Too much pressure can lead to unnecessary pain, tissue damage, and even cause the muscle being worked on to contract even further, eliminating a major benefit of massage. I have seen more progress through tolerable discomfort than unbearable pain.
Be sure to follow through with diaphragmatic breathing during the length of your treatment. This means longer than usual, slow inhales through the nose, allowing the abdomen to fill with air, and then exhale slowly through the nose or mouth. This increases oxygen levels in the body, relaxing the mind and body, allowing better gas exchange in the lungs, lowering the heart rate, and making uncomfortable techniques more tolerable.
Some bad experiences are because the therapist may not have their technique perfected, but oftentimes it's because the client didn't say when the pressure was too much. My personal view is that if you can't continue diaphragmatic breathing and you have to hold your breath, can't focus on keeping your breath steady and long, or you wince, it is too much. Listen to your body, it knows more than you think.
When you go home
After any massage, but especially deep tissue, you should drink plenty of water over the next 24-48 hours. Some people will have redness and tenderness immediately, some it takes a little while longer, and some will not experience it at all. It is sometimes a necessary evil, but water helps rehydrate the body after a massage, flush toxins, and keeps muscles pliable. Dehydrated muscles can be stiff like an old rubber band.
Another great thing to do after a massage is an Epsom salt bath. As you're filling a tub, add 3-4 cups of Epsom salts to the water, and give it a good stir to make sure they dissolve. Soak at least 15-20 minutes, or longer if you like. There are so many benefits to an Epsom salt bath, but sometimes people just add a handful of salts, which might not be enough for most people to enjoy the effects of the salts.
If you do have any adverse reactions, notify the Massage Therapist as soon as you notice, while your massage is still fresh in their mind. That way they can make a note of their pressure with a scale if it was too deep, so they know for next time. You can expect some soreness and tenderness, but it should be manageable. Apply a cold compress to the area if it affects your daily life. If it was just one area that was a little overworked, maybe the same pressure will work, just not work as long on the area, it is trial and error to see what works best for each individual. Feedback is very important, and it might save you from having to try therapist after therapist.
Don't forget, ask your therapist if you have any questions! Communication is an extremely important aspect of your treatment goals.