Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on the 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 strokes are the same as those used in 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?
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.
Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement. To do this, the massage therapist uses massage oil and often uses direct deep pressure. Muscles must be relaxed in order for the therapist to reach the deeper musculature.
What are the benefits?
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 neck, upper back, and shoulders
- Osteoarthritis pain
- Piriformis syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Muscle tension or spasm
According to the August 2005 issue of 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 a session?
You should communicate clearly with your massage therapist about the level of pressure and discomfort you wish to endure. This may be different for certain areas and throughout the massage. 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 drink enough water afterward, you may feel sore or stiff the next day.
It’s not uncommon to have some lingering soreness for a few days following a deep tissue massage. Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help ease any discomfort.
You should avoid strenuous activity after a deep tissue massage as your muscles need time to recover. You may also feel more tired than usual as your body works to heal itself.
You should always consult your doctor before getting a deep tissue massage if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant.