Deep Tissue Massage 101: What It Is & the Benefits
Updated: Aug 16
Dealing with nagging aches and pains, sports injuries, or stress? Feeling tense at work or after a workout? Your muscles may be begging for relief, and a deep tissue massage could be that breath of fresh air that your body needs.
You may have already tried a therapeutic massage for relaxation, but that may not have been enough to release the tension in your muscles. Think about going deeper for the long-term benefits your body deserves.
What Is Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage is a popular form of massage therapy that primarily treats chronic pain, stiffness, and injuries. While massage therapy is oftentimes concerned with relaxation, deep tissue massage therapy is not; although there can be relaxing elements in a deep tissue massage, the main goal is to work out the knots in the muscles and fascia. Although deep tissue massage has a reputation for being painful, a skilled massage therapist will communicate with the client to only use as much depth and pressure as needed to achieve the therapeutic benefit of the massage. This may mean the massage therapist will need to work more slowly and gradually into the tissues if your body's nervous system is especially sensitive or your threshold for pain is very low.
How Does It Work?
Deep tissue massage reaches the deeper layers of your connective tissue and muscles instead of stopping at the superficial layer, like other massage techniques. The massage therapist will use longer, slower, and more intense kneading and stroking techniques to alleviate muscle soreness. This can break up scar tissue, reduce muscle tension, and increase blood flow, allowing the body to speed up the recovery process.
Conditions That Deep Tissue Massage Can Address
If you have any of these conditions, you are an ideal candidate for deep tissue massage therapy!
What Are The Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage?
According to a 2017 study, in comparison to therapeutic massage, deep tissue massage decreased the intensity of back pain for patients with lower back issues. The study goes on to say that massage also reduced stiffness and fatigue, and improved spinal mobility.
Aids in Injury Recovery
Research suggests that manipulative therapy such as deep tissue massage helps to eliminate muscle tension after an injury. In this specific study, ankle pain patients stated that deep tissue massage therapy reduced their pain and improved ankle mobility and function.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress can manifest itself in physical symptoms, such as headaches, jaw pain, and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back. Deep tissue massage therapists knead their hands into your muscles, actively releasing built-up tension and working through stiffness.
Lowers Blood Pressure
A study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine performed research on 263 volunteers with muscle strains, measuring their blood pressure and heart rate before and after deep tissue massage sessions. The results were both lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Deep tissue massages will often start with a lighter touch to prepare and warm up the muscles. Common deep tissue massage techniques include myofascial release, cross-fiber friction, trigger point release, and stretches. Clients often report tenderness, or the sensation of a “good ache", during deep tissue massage, especially in areas of the body holding the most tension. A massage therapist trained well in deep tissue massage techniques will be able to use the appropriate depth of pressure without causing the client pain. Our massage therapists will encourage frequent client feedback during the session regarding pressure and sensation to guide their work.
Are There Side Effects to Deep Tissue Massage?
After a deep tissue massage, it's normal to feel a lingering soreness in the body that is often described as "a workout soreness". Similar to the soreness one feels after a hard workout, the soreness from a deep tissue massage typically resolves after 24-48 hours and is aided by adequate hydration and gentle movement or stretches for the affected area of the body.
However, avoid deep tissue massage if you are taking blood thinners, have blood clots, have cancer, or are pregnant. Deep tissue massage uses intense pressure at times and isn't advised for people with these conditions/circumstances.
Interested in Deep Tissue Massage?
Our massage therapists are highly trained in deep tissue massage therapy and are in constant communication with our physical therapists and athletic coaches for the most beneficial and comprehensive treatment. If you're interested in a deep tissue massage and its benefits, click the button below to book your appointment!
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Erynne Hill, MS, ATC, HHP, BFRC, is a Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer and Massage Therapist and has been a part of the healthcare field since 2002. She is the Director of Massage & Wellness here at Rehab United, specializing in Lymphatic Drainage Massage and Prenatal Massage. Erynne has extensive knowledge of both massage and physiology, even receiving her Master's degree in Exercise Physiology from San Diego State University.