Many clients think I’m psychic because just when I go too deep, I either pull back out or ask, “Is that pressure too deep?” How can I tell? There are a series of non-verbal cues that a client usually exhibits. Some of these are standard: breathing is faster and more shallow, or the muscle contracts and pushes me out.
Other cues are ones I noticed in myself which generally hold true for anyone getting a massage:
- hands contract and fingers wiggle. I find I hold my fingers slightly contracted when the pressure is a little too deep.
- shifting feet or moving toes. This generally means the pressure may be a little too deep, but it can also mean that the client is drifting off into sleep.
- very deep inhalations and exhalations. If I’m going deep on a problem area and the client knows that the deep pressure generally helps, often the client begins to take very deep, controlled inhalations in order to “breathe through the discomfort.” However, sometimes clients continue the breathing even as I’ve gone over the pain threshold.
If you find yourself doing any of the above non-verbal actions, check in with your massage therapist and ask her to reduce her pressure just a bit. We really do want to know how deep to work, and while we can sometimes seem psychic in knowing how deep to go, sometimes, we need your guidance to get the pressure right.
This Body Sense article contains information on both verbal and nonverbal cues:
Your therapist constantly monitors your body’s reaction to the massage. You can use these cues to your own advantage, so you can help the therapist without pulling yourself out of the massage experience.
-Allow your muscles to tighten if the work is too intense. Your therapist should immediately recognize this as a response to excessive pressure rather than normal muscle tension.
-Use your breath. Slow, deep breathing usually signifies the perfect pressure. Fast or labored breathing usually indicates nearing the threshold of pain.
-Use nonspecific sounds, such as a deep sigh, to let your therapist know the depth and speed of the work are perfect.
As in most relationships, it sometimes takes a bit of time to establish a common bond of communication, so experiment to find the best cues for your therapist.