Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is especially helpful for chronic aches and pains and contracted areas such as stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.
Some of the same strokes are used as classic massage therapy, but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain in order to reach the sub-layer of muscles and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles).
How Does It Work? Techniques
When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation.
Muscles must be relaxed in order for the therapist to reach the deeper musculature.
Does Deep Tissue Massage Hurt?
At certain points during the massage, most people find there is usually some discomfort and pain.
It is important to communicate to the therapist when things hurt and if any soreness or pain you experience is outside your comfort range.
There is usually some stiffness or pain after a deep tissue massage, but it should subside within a day or so. The massage therapist may recommend applying ice to the area after the massage.
It shouldn’t hurt, but it’s likely to be a bit more uncomfortable than a classic Swedish massage. You should always feel free to speak up if the pressure is too much for you.
It’s important to drink a lot of water after a deep tissue massage to help flush lactic acid out of the tissues.
If you don’t, you might be sore the next day.
It’s possible that you might feel some soreness the day after a deep tissue massage even if you DO drink water. This just means a lot of waste products were flushed out of the tissues. It should pass within a day or so.
Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage usually focuses on a specific problem, such as chronic muscle pain, injury rehabilitation, and the following conditions:
- Chronic pain
- Lower back pain
- Limited mobility
- Recovery from injuries (e.g. whiplash, falls, sports injury)
- Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Postural problems
- Muscle tension in the hamstrings, glutes, IT band, legs, quadriceps, rhomboids, upper back
- Ostearthritis pain
- Piriformis syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Muscle tension or spasm
- After a workout or bodybuilding
- According to Consumer Reports magazine, 34,000 people ranked deep tissue massage more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, exercise, prescription medications, chiropractic, acupuncture, diet, glucosamine and over-the-counter drugs.
Deep tissue massage also received a top ranking for fibromyalgia pain. People often notice improved range of motion immediately after a deep tissue massage.
What Can I Expect During My Visit?
Massage therapists may use fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows, and forearms during the deep tissue massage.
You may be asked to breathe deeply as the massage therapist works on certain tense areas.
How Fast Will I Get Results With A Deep Tissue Massage?
It’s important to be realistic about what one deep tissue massage can achieve. Many people ask for more pressure, thinking that if the therapist just pushes hard enough, they can get rid of all their knots in an hour. This just won’t happen.
In fact, undoing chronic knots and tension built up over a lifetime is best achieved with an integrated program that includes exercise, work on your posture and ways of moving, relaxation techniques and a regular program of massage.
Finally, while deep tissue is certainly valuable, you should be aware that gentle styles of massage like craniosacral therapy can also produce profound release and realignment in the body.