What are the core components that make a good remedial or deep tissue massage? There are the obvious things such as good technique, sound knowledge of anatomy, physiology and trigger point therapy is essential along with an understanding of how to assess the body both through observation, palpation and discussion pre and post massage is vital in order to know what your massage plan is going to be. However, have you ever thought of the quality of how a therapist delivers a massage as being an equal ingredient in the recipe of what makes for a good massage?
Good technique forms a solid foundation for the massage itself, so it is important that the therapist has had adequate training and that they understand the workings of the body in order to know how to treat your injury or condition. This is super important and can’t be dismissed in any way. However, is good technique alone enough to offer the body the opportunity to truly heal?
What if there is another ingredient that offers the muscles and tissues not just a relief from the ill or condition, but true healing in that the muscles and tissues have the opportunity to return back to homeostasis.
This ingredient is the quality in which the massage therapist delivers the massage.
So what do I mean by quality? Quality is the WAY in which the massage is delivered.
As an example, have you ever had a massage where you can feel the therapist just going through the motions and that they are not fully present with you whilst they are massaging? They may talk to you the whole way through, be distracted, perhaps be rough in their movements and you can tell that their attention is elsewhere rather than being there with you in the room.
I know that I certainly have experienced this and at the end of the massage, I can’t fault what they have performed on a technical level, but I am left feeling like something was missing. That missing ingredient is the lack of good quality that the massage was offered.
Having massaged for many years what I frequently experience in my clinic in Balgowlah is that clients respond to the quality of how a massage is delivered and this plays an equal role to the knowledge and technique. I have a firm understanding that it is my presence and connection first of all to my own body and then to the body that I am working with can be felt and received by the client. When I bring my quality of connection to the session, I can feel the client’s body respond with the muscles and tissues relaxing and letting go.
As an example, the way I do trigger points in remedial massage and deep tissue massage is to not push into the tight spot and try and release it with firm pressure, but I find that a gentle approach using anti-clockwise circles enables the muscles fibres to release. Along with my presence of feeling exactly what is going on underneath my thumbs or fingers, this supports the person’s tight toxic spots (trigger points) to release. The use of effleurage after brings in fresh blood supply into the area so the muscles and tissues can return to their innate state of health.
Often clients are surprised at the results that can be achieved by not pushing into the body, but rather through the gentleness and care that is offered in the session. This is the quality that they are feeling and the body does respond.
So next time you are getting a massage, tune into what you feel and the quality in which the massage is being delivered, knowing that the quality of a massage plays an equal role to technique in your overall healing.
Donna Nolan teaches Remedial Massage for Australia’s leading massage school. She runs her own massage clinic in Balgowlah and enjoys supporting people for many common conditions such as back pain, neck pain, sciatica, shoulder impingement, postural imbalances, stress, anxiety etc. Contact her.