Deep or “deep, man”? Also, what’s the deal with cupping?

When people say they want deep bodywork done, I believe what they’re trying to communicate is that they want the work to feel meaningful and productive. Deep, as in profound, not deep as in how many inches can I dig my elbow into your flesh.

I’m guessing that some of you are arguing with me in your mind right now, thinking NO, Lori, I want you to exert as much pressure as humanly possible into my sore spots. Stick with me for a minute. 

We live in a culture that has conditioned us from an early age to believe in the old adage, “no pain, no gain”. On an existential level, yes,  we will all experience pain. But “no pain, no gain” is applied in realms where it does not belong, such as bodywork! I can’t count the number of times new clients come in for a massage and tell me that I can go as deep as I need to, claiming “you can’t hurt me” or “I know sometimes it has to hurt more first to feel better”. Well, actually, neither of those statements are true, but that’s a discussion for another day. 

What I believe most folks are looking for when you say you want deep work is that you want to be able to feel that something beneficial is happening. You want to feel that change has occurred, and since we have a proclivity for creating change by exerting force, it is assumed that digging in is the path leading to this end goal. Let me assure you, I have been on a massage table where not enough pressure was used and I felt irritated, because it just felt like I was being pet; very surface, very gross feeling. I have also been on the receiving end of too much pressure, and though the deep, digging in sensation may have scratched the itch, it didn’t necessarily get me closer to having healthier muscles any more than overly aggressive flossing will get you closer to healthier gums.

Over the last year, I have also experienced some mind-bending pain alleviation at the hands of practitioners doing quite skilled, targeted and GENTLE work. One of those techniques is cupping, believe it or not.  You’ve likely seen people walking around with the bruised up looking skin proudly on display following a cupping session and thought one of two things: 1) Sweet! I love deep work, I need that, or 2) Ew. No. Why would someone do that to themselves? The unfortunate thing about cupping is that it looks way more aggressive than it actually is. And, as with all things, it seems appropriate to add the caveat that some practitioners will overdo it with cupping (or deep tissue work, or gua sha, you name it) because there is an impulse to provide evidence that they’ve exerted force and they believe that force equals positive change, or they know that is what you believe and they want your business. I mean, it’s not right at all, but this is what happens. 

This is not a sales pitch for cupping, per se, but I learned the technique because I experienced it personally and it felt amazing and deep. Ultimately it is just a tool and not the be all and end all. That said, if you are curious, I want to assure you (or disappoint you) that the cupping work I do is not aggressive, but it does feel meaningful. It will not leave you feeling bruised (unless you bruise easily, in which case you probably shouldn’t receive cupping to begin with) but marking of the skin does occur in many people. What I like about cupping, is that it feels like it does meaningful work by creating space, rather than jamming into tissues that are already feeling constricted. Ultimately, the biggest benefit I see is that the suction of the cups does things my normal tools (human paws) can’t do, creating lift on the tissues of the body, which feels great and can help alleviate pain. 

If you are curious and want to try cupping as part of your next massage, you may select it as an add-on option when you book online. There is no extra charge for cupping. There are, however, additional health condition restrictions (it’s not safe for everyone), but for many people it can be a nice supplement to your regularly scheduled massage sessions. 

TL;DR: Massage doesn’t need to be painful to create meaningful change. Don’t suffer through painful techniques. Ask me about adding cupping to your next massage.