Addressing Massage Therapy Misconceptions in Cupping, Swedish, Deep Tissue, Stretching, Trigger Point and Scraping Methods

by Sandy Fritz

Pressure needs to be heavy/hard for results—NOT TRUE.

General pressure of the massage should be satisfying, ranging from light to firm depending on outcome desired and body area addressed.

Firm pressure is NOT DEEP TISSUE.

Moderate to firm pressure is generally indicated for most people during a therapeutic massage. The delivery of these pressure levels related to ergonomics and body mechanics …not increased effort by the massage therapist.


Painful (deep) pressure is needed for results. NOT TRUE.

Pressure provided should not be painful or cause the body to tighten. Pressure can be focused if indicated to target a specific symptom but should not cause soreness the day after the session. If that occurs the tissue that was worked on was damaged by the application.

Deep tissue means therapeutic focus heavy pressure spot work. NOT TRUE.

This terminology is a major source of confusion. Deep tissue as a type of massage approach is inaccurate and burning out and injuring massage therapists. What clients want is focused intensity. Better to use an adjunct method in combination with massage. Best are cupping/suction/decompression/vacuum methods that lift and pull the tissue and percussion tools combined with warm or cold application.

Swedish means relaxation focus light pressure. NOT TRUE.

This form of therapeutic massage, more accurately called classical massage, can be modified and adapted to achieve any outcome goal.

Trigger point is a massage approach….NOT TRUE.

A trigger point is a soft tissue condition that can be treated many ways, not just heavy pressure.


Stretching is necessary….NOT TRUE.

Stability and flexibility are needed for functional mobility. Many people are hypermobile and the stiffness is compensation for the lack of stability. Stretching should be only used when specifically indicated. Stretching moves a body area beyond a current motion barrier which could actually cause injury or aggravate a symptom.


Joint movement is stretching. NOT TRUE.

Joint movement within the client’s comfort range but within safe physiological parameters is a valuable aspect of massage therapy application. Generally, flexion movement should be 90 degrees from anatomical position. Extension moves to anatomical position. Hyperextension no more than 15 degrees from anatomical position. Adduction, abduction, internal and external rotation 45 degrees from anatomical position.


Cupping methods should leave marks to be effective…NOT TRUE.

Marks are caused by too much suction and leaving the cup in place (parked). Suction needs to be sufficient to lift skin/superficial fascia and stay on the skin. The cup should be slowly moved during application.

Scraping methods (Gua Sha/instrument assisted) needs to leave marks (petechiae) to be effective. NOT TRUE.

Scraping can be done safely if applied lightly with a lubricant. Scraping can provide a satisfying sensation and creates counterirritation and hyperstimulation analgesia . Scraping DOES NOT break up scar tissue. NOTE: Dry brushing can accomplish a similar sensation more safely.

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