There seems to be a misunderstanding amongst the general population of how massage and bodywork work to alleviate physical pain and "knots". I've often heard clients say, "Work those knots out! Press as hard as you want...I can take it because I know it's good for me!" or "You can press harder." I used to think the same way 20 years ago when I was a student of massage. When it comes to pain, we just want it gone and we want it gone now. However, the mindset of "No pain, no gain" does more harm than good.
When it comes to massage and pain, I have found that that the lighter, the longer, the better. Meaning: the lighter the pressure and the longer I spend time on an area of pain/tension/discomfort, the more effective it is in relieving pain and inducing relaxation. I teach my clients that on a pain scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being high, a "3" has found to be the most therapeutic when receiving massage or bodywork. Why? Because it elicits the relaxation response and not the pain/stress response. Relaxation is key.
For example: While in massage school, I was experiencing pinched nerves in my neck repeatedly over the course of a month or two (maybe even longer). While in class, a classmate lightly massaged my neck for 20 minutes. There was no deep tissue involved. The pressure was light, not firm. Not only did it resolve my pain, I did not have another pinched nerve for three years!
PHYSICAL PAIN ORIGINATES IN THE NON-PHYSICAL
We are more than just our bodies. We are also energy fields that hold our emotions, our thoughts and our spirituality, and these energy fields are intertwined with one another as well as with the physical body. When we have imbalances in these energy fields and they are not addressed properly, these imbalances manifest in the physical as pain and tension. We now know that when we have ignored our psycho-spiritual-emotional imbalances for too long, this is when our bodies begin to talk to us to get our attention through pain, tension, discomfort, etc.
So, when a client comes in and wants me to reef on their knots, I won't...because their knots and pain need to be addressed at the point of origin...the emotional, mental and spiritual levels...and this requires a lighter touch for a longer duration.