The answer will vary by any massage therapist you ask.
My response is it will greatly depend on multiple contributing factors such as touch sensitivity, the health and condition of the muscle spindles and fascia (connective tissue). Other factors play a part too. The amount of water the client drinks, daily diet and exercise routine. Through personal experience and by being a DT specialist for nearly seven years these main factors play a great deal into pain.
A deep tissue massage does not needs to “hurt” to be effective yet you must feel a degree of “good” pain to ensure the muscles are being release properly. Each person is different and how they relate to pain threshold. What might be too much pressure for someone might be just right for another. Of course someone that receives massage on a regular basis will not feel sore after a deep tissue massage as opposed to someone that just had their first session of DT. If you have adhesion’s (knots), scar tissue and overloaded muscles, the technique may be uncomfortable.
Deep tissue is just one of the many techniques that can release muscles from those afflictions.
How I perform deep tissue:
First I warm the fascia before performing deep tissue. By doing this simple step, it warms the connective tissue so I am able to work deeper. I use traditional strokes used in Swedish massage applying a slower and more concentrated strokes that go deep into the muscles. The deeper the work, the deeper the strokes will be applied to the muscle under belly. Stripping or cross fiber friction is involved to loosen up fascia and myofascial adhesion’s. When coming across a nerve entrapment or trigger point the client may feel an uncomfortable pressure, a tingling sensation or tenderness in the area affected. I will then apply deep pressure in the area till the symptom is relieved. This aides in trigger point release. I incorporate other techniques such as myofascial release, myoskeletal therapy or hot stones to release the fascia and muscles.
You must remain alert to answer occasional questions from me. During my sessions I always encourage deep breathing when I come across a adhesion. If I feel that you are not breathing properly by holding your breathe I will remind you to slowly breath deeply. By breathing it helps to bring circulation to the area and aides in releasing tension. As I always tell my clients healthy tissue will not hurt if it is pressed on. If it does hurt, there is a underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Deep tissue is not a relaxing massage. Deep tissue is clinical massage therapy to break up adhesion’s, trigger point formations and negative muscle patterns. Little or no massage lotion is applied. This helps the therapist to go deeper into the muscle underbelly to achieve the necessary results to reduce muscle tension. Those that are new to the technique may experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), mild bruising and some swelling.
Communication is vital for a good deep tissue massage. The therapist must ask questions during the massage to make sure the pressure is comfortable or if the client is having referral pain.
If you are experiencing excruciating pain, always inform your therapist. Speaking up is extremely important when receiving any form of massage technique. The therapist will adjust the technique. The technique can be watered down to suit your needs.