Our guide to deep tissue massage
A deep tissue massage is a form of massage therapy in which firm pressure is applied in slow strokes to affect deeper layers of the body’s muscles and connective tissues. It helps with issues like chronic pain and aches and is used in areas like the neck and upper back, lower back, shoulders and leg muscles.
What are the potential benefits of deep tissue massage?
A deep tissue massage treatment is usually applied to target a specific issue. This could be injury rehabilitation, chronic muscle pain or any of the following conditions:
- Limited mobility
- Lower back pain
- Repetitive strain injury
- Injury rehabilitation
- Posture issues
- Muscle tension in the leg muscles or upper back
- Pain in the upper back or neck
Some of these potential benefits are yet to be scientifically proved. If you are looking for massage therapy that could prevent sports injury, help with muscle recovery after exercise or address sport-specific concerns, it might be worth considering a sports massage.
What’s involved in deep tissue massage?
The techniques of deep tissue massage aim to break up scar tissue and break down bands of painful, rigid tissue (sometimes referred to as ‘knots’ or adhesions). These issues can disrupt circulation and cause problems like pain, inflammation and limited range of motion.
Some of the strokes may feel similar to the work done in Swedish massage therapy, but deep tissue massage is not simply a stronger version of a Swedish massage. A deep tissue massage begins with lighter pressure to warm up and prepare the muscles. Some of the most common techniques are:
- Friction: Pressure is applied along the grain of the muscle to undo adhesions and push tissue fibres into alignment.
- Stripping: Deep, gliding pressure is pushed along the length of the muscle fibres using forearms, elbows, thumbs and knuckles.
The massage therapist may ask you to take deep breaths as they work on particularly tense areas to help align the muscle tissue. When the massage is complete, it is not unusual to feel some stiffness or soreness. This usually subsides within 24 hours, but if you are concerned about any pain you experience after a massage, contact your therapist.
Patients are usually advised to drink plenty of water after a massage as it may help flush metabolic waste from the affected tissues.
Are deep tissue massages painful?
You may experience some discomfort at times during the massage as your therapist works on areas with adhesions or scar tissue. Pain doesn’t necessarily indicate that the massage is working – it may cause you to tense up, which can make it difficult for the therapist to reach deeper tissues.
Tell your therapist if you feel pain whilst they are working. This will enable them to adjust their technique or prep the tissues for longer to remove tension.
Deep tissue massage is not recommended for people with blood clots as it may dislodge the clot. You should check with your doctors before starting deep tissue massage therapy if you:
- Have recently undergone surgery
- You are having chemotherapy
- You have another medical condition
Some sufferers of osteoporosis should not receive the deep pressure of this massage therapy. The massage should not be done on any areas of bruising, swelling, infections, skin rashes, unhealed wounds, tumours, fragile bones or abdominal hernia. On rare occasions, deep tissue massage can cause bruising and, in a handful of cases, a hematoma (localised accumulation of blood outside of blood vessels).
The key is to consult your doctor before undergoing any massage if you have a medical condition. This includes pregnancy.
Deep tissue massage is not simply an ordinary massage with deep pressure. It can be helpful for people suffering from certain conditions, but you should listen to your body and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Contact AH Therapies if you have any questions about the therapy.