Our body’s soft tissue is arranged in layers. Sometimes the superficial layers need to be worked, sometimes the deeper layers are where the problem is. To be effective, therapists need to sink to the correct layer, sometimes gradually, releasing successively deeper levels of tense tissue. If we don’t, if we just plunge in to what we believe to be the right layer, then it will hurt. And when it hurts, the tissue will react by tightening up defensively. This is just the opposite of what we are trying to achieve which is for the tissue to relax.
I’m not saying good bodywork has to be pain-free. Areas of chronic tension and holding are often very irritable, very sensitive to even light touch. The trick is to find the depth, pressure and duration of contact which is tolerable. Pain, if it is experienced at all, should be the “good hurt”. More about the “good hurt” in a future blog about trigger points.