What is Deep Tissue Massage?

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

Look at any list of the most popular types of massage and deep tissue is sure to be there. But what exactly is deep tissue massage and how does it differ from other types, such as Swedish massage or a sports massage?

While definitions vary, most massage therapists agree at its most basic, a deep tissue massage is similar to a Swedish massage, but with the massage therapist using slower strokes and more force. “Deep tissue massage is a slow massage with firm pressure and long strokes that increases the blood flow into the muscles and helps release tension in them,” says Lori Rosic, LMT, owner of Sports Recovery Spa.

The goal is to massage the deeper layers of tissue and muscle to reduce tension and break up scar tissue that may have formed due to an injury. “It’s focus is to relieve stiffness and soreness by locating muscle adhesions and scar tissue, and applying just the right pressure, and in the right directions, to break up scar tissue and muscle adhesions,” says Ron Lauinger, massage therapist and owner of Curative Hands Therapeutic Massage. “Because more pressure is often needed to break things up, there is often more discomfort involved, compared to a typical ‘Swedish’ style massage.”

Deep Tissue Massage Techniques

In order to accomplish this goal of relieving tension and breaking up any existing scar tissue, a massage therapist will employ a variety of techniques in order to massage those deeper layers of tissue, fascia, and muscle.

Techniques include cross fiber friction, active release technique, muscle energy technique, trigger point therapy, and range of motion with pin and stripping of the focal adhesions, and myofascial and positional release. Sometimes deep tissue massage may also call for the use of stainless steel tools to help provide the maximum benefit for an individual.

A massage therapist may use their thumbs, a reinforced thumb, their knuckles, their forearms, or their elbows to deliver the pressure needed for a deep tissue massage. “To help prevent injury, using proper body mechanics and utilizing my elbows has greatly reduced fatigue and soreness,” Lauinger says. “Massage therapists should learn to utilize their elbows and body weight more efficiently and learn to adjust their massage tables to best help their positioning and posture.”

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Due to the increased pressure deep tissue massages require, giving one can take more of a toll on the massage therapist. It is important for massage therapists to practice correct body mechanics and to have a self-care routine to help offset this toll.

“I personally only do four massage per day and focus more on the quality than the quantity,” says Rosic. “Some other things I do to protect myself against injury are getting massages, energy work, getting into the cold plunge, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, yoga, cupping therapy, infrared sauna and proper nutrition.”

What should A Client Expect When Receiving A Deep Tissue Massage?

Even though a massage therapist will use firmer pressure than with a Swedish massage, a massage therapist will start with lighter pressure and techniques more akin to a Swedish massage to make sure the client’s muscles and body are properly warmed up.

The time period before the deep tissue massage may vary based on the client. Once properly warmed up, the massage therapist will switch to deep tissue massage techniques and begin applying more pressure.

“During the massage, clients need to talk to their massage therapist, and let them know if the pressure is too much, or of it’s too little. Clients also need to understand that there may be some pain and discomfort the day following a deep tissue massage,” Lauinger says.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Deep Tissue Massages?

As with anything, deep tissue massages are not for everyone. People with blood clotting disorders or with an increased risk of bone fractures may want to check with their doctor before receiving a deep tissue massage due to the vigorous rubbing and pressure that occurs during the massage. Other possible risks include:

·      Bruising

·      Aggravation of previous injuries

·      Nerve lesions

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is used to treat myriad issues but some of the most common are chronic back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

A 2014 study titled Deep Tissue Massage and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Trial investigated whether chronic low back pain therapy with deep tissue massage would give similar results to combined therapy comprising deep tissue massage and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs. The study determined “Deep tissue massage had a positive effect on reducing pain in patients with chronic low back pain. Concurrent use of deep tissue massage and NSAID contributed to low back pain reduction in a similar degree that the DTM did.”

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In addition to the benefits that come from deep tissue massage being used directly on a problem area, it can also have indirect benefits, such as with helping to relieve headaches. If a person is suffering from headaches relating to stress or and injury elsewhere in the body, such as the neck, deep tissue massage can help relieve the tension or loosen the muscles in that area to also help relieve the associated headaches.

Some of the overall purported benefits of deep tissue massages include:

·      Reduced pain

·      Increased movement

·      Lower blood pressure

·      Reduced inflammation

·      Arthritis relief

·      Break up of scar tissue

·      Reduced stress and anxiety

“After 3 or 4 visits, the majority of clients notice a huge difference in the level of pain and stiffness, compared to what they once felt, their range of motion has greatly improved, and their quality of life has been drastically changed for the better,” Lauinger says. “They are able to move around more freely, are able to walk and exercise with less pain, and they simply enjoy life better than before.”