Massage Session

You Gotta Go Deeper Than That, Man

You Gotta Go Deeper Than That, Man

Image showing deep tissue massage

Yes, those were my client’s actual words. And, believe me, for the first hour of this two-hour massage – that’s precisely what I thought I had been doing…and exhausting myself in the process. I should qualify that – and I explained this to my client before he got onto the table – it can’t ‘all’ be deep tissue massage. Perhaps a third of it will be – and then only in areas that merit deep work (in my view) and aren’t ‘danger zones’ (poplietal, lower back, for example). The other two thirds of the time consist of gentler work where, first, I am bringing the client into a comfortable relaxed zone in both body and mind – this in order for me to gain ‘permission’ to go deeper. To the same goal I am also warming with vibration, loosening with tapotement, assessing and ‘melting’ muscles with both soft and more aggressive effleurage and sometimes still pressure.


This post is a continuation of the previous post ‘Taking it Easy’ – and the client has skied a combined vertical of 30,000 ft. that day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Having employed a mountain ski guide in uniform – he didn’t have to wait in lift or tram lines.


This client is an athlete through-and-through – every muscle an element of a highly-tuned machine. A body-builder and a TRX exerciser. He has every right to ask for a deep tissue massage and frankly I was apprehensive going into it. He is accustomed to receiving sports massages from his sports trainer twice per week. And so, back to the beginning, after giving it all I had in the way of ‘deep pressure without hurting’ – I discovered that he actually wanted me to hurt him. My client, nicely, let me know that nothing I had done so far had made much impression. The expectations had been high. It is also worth noting here that, in deep tissue or sports massage – communication is everything (unlike Swedish massage where I, and usually the client, prefer to keep quiet). He should have felt free to comment much earlier – and I should have solicited.

I’m no slouch either…a mountain athlete myself with a regular workout schedule. I understand the human form – especially from an athletic perspective. I’m 6’2, 195 lbs and can deliver a good, strong massage – not often letting people down.


By this time I was massaging the calves – often a tender area, especially on skiers, and there was nothing – no amount of pressure I could lay on with all of my weight – that could elicit a twitch in those tell-tale fingers or any sign of pulling away. Yet he still described having discomfort that HE thought I could address – which I could only contribute to the peroneal muscles -where, I admit, I rarely ‘go’ with clients. ‘OK – you asked for it – I thought – and went in there deep and long with the very point of my elbow and stripped like crazy. Aha – that did it! I could feel him breathing into it and enjoying the pain and, yes, relief that it gave him. This gave me confidence and much more ‘permission’ from both him and his body to go deeper to the point of pain (and – for him – relief) – which I did for the rest of his massage – including, incredibly, a strong elbowing of his biceps and triceps tendons (he had considerable tendinitis there, I think, from the TRX exercises and a hand-dragging trick in snowboarding called ‘pat-the-dog’).


My experience as a massage therapist grew with that session. Beyond knowing that I had done well by receiving the biggest tip of my career, my confidence soared along with my ability to expand my offering of (very) deep tissue massage to well-tuned athletic hard-men (and women) who need it.


Be well,

Hamish and Rochelle.






60 or 90 Minutes?

60 or 90 Minutes?


I feel so strongly about this that I am considering dropping the 60 minute time slot in favor of 90 minute sessions  – especially for deep tissue massage. That is – proper deep tissue massage. Or let’s call it deep tissue therapy or body work.

Yes – massage therapists can all give a nice relaxation Swedish massage in 60 minutes – but it’s almost always a compromised massage if it is to address the whole body including hands, feet, scalp and face. I find myself distracted by looking at the clock and having to leave something out or just briefly touched if I am not careful. And lets face it – if your massage therapist is any good – 60 minutes will always leave you feeling a bit short-changed. People rarely get off a massage table thinking that they’ve had enough or have been there too long. (Let’s not even go to the 50 minute time of spas – which I think is really poor service.)


But with deep tissue – 60 minutes  just isn’t enough to address the whole body adequately. I don’t even try. This is enough time to address either the upper body or the lower body or specifics like shoulder / upper back and neck complaints.


I’m talking about a proper deep tissue massage here, where communication between client and therapist is essential and on-going throughout the session. This is deep tissue where time has to be spent assessing, palpating, warming and softening (melting) the more superficial muscles – necessary to allow access to the deeper muscles. And simultaneously it takes time for the client to relax mentally, to find their breathing rhythms and their trust and comfort in the session that’s about to begin. After all that prep work, which takes time (everybody has different requirements), the therapist has to work slowly and methodically – slowness equals deepness (or at least the effect of deepness) lotion or oil is kept to a minimum and burning of the skin isn’t an option. The therapist is ‘listening’ to the body, feeling what’s going on in the anatomy, looking at the client’s face, watching for trembles, movement, resistance and gauging the effect of the stroke or tool or method being used.  Only when the muscle has ‘released’, or otherwise responded as desired, is it time to move on. We need time to ask questions of the client (How is this feeling?), listen to the answers. There’s experimentation – is this working? If not, how about this? Or after this – I think I should add this?

And then there’s joint mobilization and increasing range of motion (ROM) for many differing conditions and desired outcomes. Massaging muscles doesn’t just stand on its own! I will often perform joint mobilization and stretching techniques to the areas of the body served by those muscles that are receiving a massage. This gives a much more beneficial (and great-feeling) all-around massage.


So the point is -if you’re booking a proper deep tissue massage, or even a relaxation massage with elements of deep tissue – give yourself and your therapist a break and do the 90 minute version – you’ll love it!

Choosing 90 minutes for deep tissue massage is a win-win situation. The client receives a better massage and better results, the therapist gets to give a better massage, is likely to get better reviews and will earn better money.  (The value for the client is usually better too, as the per-minute price of a 90 minute session is usually less than that of the 60 minute session.)

Oh – and by the way – be prepared to book future sessions. The first deep tissue massage is often (usually) a get-to-know-you time. There are many, many benefits to repeat visits to a therapist who, in their first session, has come to know your body, yourself, and has an extended plan of care. Over time a relationship develops and the overall result is…a healthier and happier you.

Be well,


Hamish and Rochelle