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So You Think You Need Deep Tissue Massage?

As a new RMT, my technique favoured “deep tissue” massage. I believed that the more aggressive I was in my treatment, the more effective it would be in releasing the deeper tissue. However, if restriction is felt on a deeper level, then it is also likely to be present at the surface and any effort by a therapist to address the “deep tissue” first will cause an unnecessary amount of pain and discomfort.

What I have discovered with John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release is that I can effect change in tissue without inflicting pain. Applying gentle, sustained pressure in an area of restriction is enough to effect a release. This approach allows us to feel what is happening without our pain receptors being overloaded. Most of us are living with a certain amount of pain or discomfort and no longer acknowledging until it flares up. This flare up is our body’s attempt to draw our attention to an imbalance. Too frequently, people search for an external method of relief such as medication, surgical intervention, or addiction - none of which addresses the cause of the problem. Some of us have become so disconnected from ourselves that it takes a therapist’s elbow and a considerable amount of pressure to feel something. My role as a therapist is not to create pain in my clients but to bring their awareness to the pain that already exists in their bodies and facilitate its release.

The most profound understanding of why using force is unnecessary came to me when I was learning to treat horses. I found myself using half or sometimes even a quarter of the pressure I use when treating people and was still eliciting significant release in this 1000 lb. animal. Treating animals and children is very different from treating adults. If I were to use force on an animal or child, they would protest and try to get away from me as quickly as possible. Also, animals and children don’t need to understand the process or carry any emotional baggage. They are more willing to vocally express themselves during treatment, which can definitely augment a release. Adults are usually more preoccupied with trying to figure out “why is this sore?” or are worried about what they will look like if they were to really let go. If they just allowed themselves to release their inhibitions and FEEL the pain without needing to know “why”, they would be in a lot less pain.

While bodywork in general can give us an opportunity to detach from the outside world and focus more on ourselves, JFB-MFR encourages us to reconnect with ourselves on a deeper level. With a commitment to change and a willingness to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, a trained JFB-MFR therapist can help us release the pain from our bodies that we’ve been holding onto for months or years so that we might begin to live more fully again.

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