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I do a lot of deep tissue work on my clients and I'm starting to feel the negative effects on my body. I was treated several years ago for a herniated disc at C7-T1 which led to hypertension in my traps and eventually bursitis in my right shoulder. I've noticed that when I'm doing massage, the activity  itself makes the pain go away but more and more I'm waking up with stiff neck and shoulder pain. I've started adding a little extra to the ticket for deep tissue work on my clients (mostly to cover the cost of my seeminly never ending need for tiger balm) and would like to know how I can continue to offer this service to my clients without totally distroying my body.

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I am an instructor for Ashiatsu, based out of Texas. We have instructors across the nation, maybe this form of deep tissue is an option for you to consider! Go to our site, www.deepfeet.com, to see locations, schedules, and more info

How's your self-care? Are you receiving regular bodywork--massage, acupuncture, etc? Exercising (lifting weights has been especially helpful for me) and stretching? Are you overloading yourself with clients? Too many in a day, in a row, in a week?
Hi Heather,

I too struggle with this from time to time. However, without going into my own issues, here are some suggestions:

I work out of a couple of spas, have private clients, and work out of a country club. I get clients who ask for deep tissue and in their minds this means the whole body. I learned early on to ask them what areas they are having pain or discomfort and to evaluate them so I can determine which areas actually NEED deep tissue work. I rarely will work on someone and do deep tissue over their entire body and if I do I charge them MUCH more than my usual fee.

Your tools: I use the KNOBBER tool that I got from Massage Warehouse to reach deeper layers without using my fingers or thumbs. I still use my fingers to determine where I should be and to check progress but the deepest pressure is done with the tool. Something else to consider: Hot stones. You could incorporate hot stone therapy into your deep tissue work as a general rule. If you use hot stones to do deep work then you will accomplish two things at once: (1) you will be able to get into the tissue with heat as your friend and it will feel great to the client once you learn to do it well, and (2) you will bring healing to your hands as a result of using the stones on a regular basis.

Your speed: Deep tissue work, particularly with things like stripping, should be done very slowly. I have had a friend MT work on me and he worked so fast I could just hear his hands tearing up as he worked! If you are using pressure at a higher pace you are setting yourself up for injury.

Self-care: If you see that you have issues with your shoulders and neck, you may need to strengthen and balance the muscles in your upper body with serious weight training. I would consult a personal trainer just for a session or two to get a list of exercises to do and learn proper technique if you are not familiar with weight training. By the same token, stretching any tight areas on a regular basis will give you more pain free movement and a higher degree of functionality with less chance for injuries. Getting regular DEEP TISSUE massage yourself is also a must. I used to think that relaxation massage was enough but the way that we therapists stress our bodies we need deep tissue massage as a preventative in areas you know you use a lot and to help solve issues that arise.

Changing up what you do: If you are using the exact same techniques day in and day out, you are now going for a repetitive strain injury. You should work towards having enough types of techniques that achieve the same outcome so that you can regularly switch to something new. I now make a habit of changing up the more difficult techniques regularly because I notice that I am stressing my body too much the same way, over and over.

Proper body mechanics: When I was in school the teachers only touched on proper body mechanics here and there. Take the time to learn all you can about HOW to do the moves you need to do in a way that will help your client but at the same time keep you healthy and strong. You have to find that balance. Don't give up because the world needs your gifts and talents. You just need to make some minor adjustments. There are books and DVDs out there for us on body mechanics and some of the better teaching DVDs on other subjects also include this info.

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