A few days ago, I got my first-ever deep tissue massage (more here) and left feeling like it could be a fun little occasional activity. My tense muscles felt looser, and I was eager to look up other wellness centers that I could visit. Everything went great! Or so I thought….
Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was experiencing symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) (more here). While the onset of the tingly, numbing pain was surprising, it was not shocking, as I had been working from home on a comfortable chair without a desk for the past few months. The very next day after the start of the CTS discomfort, I felt like I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder. Despite regular walks, my routine is pretty sedentary, which made this pain unusual. I used a heat pack, which made me feel warm and tired without any pain relief.
It wasn’t until several hours later that I suspected that the massage, the CTS, and the shoulder pain could be related…. I spoke to someone way more qualified than myself about medical matters and learned about the connection between how trauma to the neck and shoulder muscles can trigger pain that snakes down the arm, wrist, and fingers.
I never questioned whether deep tissue massages were “safe.” If anything, they just seemed like a luxury product. Deep tissue massages often come with some sort of innocuous disclaimer that one should “consult your primary care physician before getting a massage if you’re being treated for a medical condition.” I’m not trying to brag, Dear Reader, but I’m preeeeeeetty average. So, when I see such disclaimers, I do not see them as a real warning. All the same, it turns out, that there really are risks associated with deep tissue massages.
Massage therapists are, of course, trained professionals, however their techniques do not affect everyone the same way. One reason that I was interested in a deep tissue massage was to “work out the knots” in my sore muscles. Too much pressure from kneading knuckles on these tender areas can cause damage and even tears to muscle tissue and also cause bruising. In the (rarest) worst case— which sounds more like a cautionary tale or urban legend— deep tissue massages can provoke life-threatening spinal cord injuries and cardiovascular damage, as critical as strokes.
Hyperbolically, I feel like I am recovering from a minor rear-end car accident. In such collisions, the body is shaken violently, which causes damage to the soft tissue. As a result, victims experience, whiplash which can temporarily limit the movement of the head and neck, which leads to severe soreness in these areas. That’s how I feel. My injury, of course, was kind of self-inflicted. When I experienced mild pain, I thought it hurts so good; no pain, no gain. In fact, pain — believe it or not — is a sign that things are, indeed, not good and that the activity should be stopped immediately. Now, I must turn my whole body if I wish to look behind my shoulder and I’m positive that I would drop a 12-lb baby if anyone were to be so foolish as to hand one to me.
Luckily, for me, the pain is only temporary. My aversion to deep tissue massages, however, will be everlasting.
Dear Reader, you have been warned.