The Deep Tissue Confession

I have a confession to make…

I have been a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) since October 2014, so for about a year and half now. Before that, I spent six months cramming as much clinically relevant musculoskeletal information into my brain as possible as I prepared to take the licensing board exams. And before that, I spent 2-years attending the West Cost College of Massage Therapy in BC in order to earn my Massage Therapy Diploma.

My confession is this: I still have no idea what Deep Tissue Release is.

There’s a pretty valid reason for this, though. It’s simply because Deep Tissue isn’t a thing. It doesn’t really exist. Instead of being a title for a technique or modality that is taught in school like Trigger Point Release or Myofascial Release, as far as I can tell, Deep Tissue is a coined term used mainly by the spa industry to overcharge you for a deep massage. And because ‘deep’ can be a subjective experience for both the therapist and the patient (what the therapist may think is deep or hard work for them, the patient may hardly feel at all or vice versa), it’s a bit of misnomer. To the patient, most of the patients that I’ve had this conversation with, ‘deep tissue’ seems to mean a treatment including some amount of pain, or being on the verge of pain, anyway. But that’s about the depth of the definition, as I know it.

For a woman of smaller stature, I’m known to have a deeper touch. So when people ask me if I offer deep tissue release, I tell them just that. But, Registered Massage Therapists in BC know that a massage doesn’t have to hurt you to be therapeutic. And when a deeper touch may be necessary, they know enough human anatomy to pinpoint precise tissues, while using the best possible biomechanics to administer a deep touch without wreaking havoc on their own bodies. What I’m getting at here, is that it’s kind of ridiculous you should pay more in a spa for a Deep Tissue Massage than you do for a Registered Massage Therapy appointment. What a spa menu like that reads to me, is that you’re paying more for a spa therapist that is less skilled at assessing your tissues and using their own body efficiently enough to administer a non-therapeutic massage – the same massage to every person who orders it, regardless of need. Or even worse, if it is a RMT offering your Deep Tissue Massage in the spa, you are paying more for the very same massage you would have received from the RMT regardless, had they properly assessed and determined that this is the most therapeutic treatment route for you.

Admittedly, and thankfully, I’m seeing less and less of this over-pricing of Deep Tissue Release offered on spa menus. The words still get thrown around and RMTs like myself fall into the trap of using them in our every day talk and our marketing materials – partly because these are the terms our patients are familiar with and use.  But things are changing. Our patients have more access to knowledge and scientific research. They are more body aware. They are more skeptical and interested in finding answers to what ails them and solutions to fix themselves. Massage therapists like myself are offering truths about whether or not we can help you.

This is my truth for today: I have no idea what Deep Tissue Release means to you. But I’ll be happy to discuss it with you at your next appointment, and if we decide that it’s a deeper touch that you need, I’ll do my best to administer that to you in a therapeutic way!