The Ultimate Guide to Deep Tissue Massage
By Lubna Sheikh on 14th January 2015
In this post, we shall discuss the topic of deep tissue massage. In a nutshell, deep muscle massage aims to realign deep layers of muscles. It’s primarily used to rid muscles of aches and pains. It’s also used to treat neck, back and shoulder pain, and general discomforts in the musculature.
How deep tissue massage is carried out
Compared to traditional massage therapy, deep tissue massage uses slower and higher pressure strokes. This allows the massage to be delivered into the muscles at a deeper layer. Deep tissue massage also requires additional pressure because it aims to treat areas of tension located in sub-levels of muscles and fascia.
When you receive deep tissue massage, the massage therapist will ask you to lie on your back or stomach. Deep tissue massage is then used to target areas of your body where you are experiencing discomfort. Deep tissue massage then manipulates deep fascia consisting of muscles and joints. This helps liberate muscles that are tense and fixed in an unnatural position.
Priming the muscles with Swedish massage
With deep tissue massage, you must massage muscles located below the surface layer. If muscles are tense, it becomes problematic for the therapist to delve into the required level of depth. The muscles must therefore be prepared before deep tissue massage is attempted. The muscles must initially be primed using Swedish massage stokes. Swedish massage strokes will relax the muscles so that deep tissue massage may be implemented. This also allows deep tissue massage to be delivered in a way that is not painful.
For the record, deep tissue massage and Swedish massage are very similar to one another. A Swedish massage consists of flowing movements coupled with needing motions. In contrast, deep tissue massage addresses the deeper layers of tissue. Once the area is ‘warmed up’ using Swedish massage, your therapist will eventually switch to deep tissue massage once the muscles are sufficiently primed.
Will I experience pain when I receive a deep tissue massage?
The answer to this question is an emphatic NO! Deep tissue massage requires the therapist to be in sync with the patient’s threshold for pain. A skilled deep tissue massage therapist is able to allow the patient to experience this threshold of pain without crossing over the line. This allows the patient to experience the maximum benefits derived from deep tissue massage without feeling intense discomfort.
Deep tissue massage utilises cross-grain strokes. This is when the massage therapist moves against the muscles in order to reduce aches and pains. This contrasts with other forms of massage where the therapist moves with the muscles. Because the therapist moves against the muscle, you may experience slight discomfort.
If you feel discomfort, inform your therapist without delay. However, you must not confuse the relief of muscle stiffness with discomfort. The former is a natural part of deep tissue massage you must embrace.
Deep tissue vs. sports massage
Many people in London contact us requesting a sports massage, when in actuality they really wish to receive a deep tissue massage.
What’s the difference between a deep tissue massage and a sporting massage? A sports massage is when we prepare our clients for a sporting event, or when an injury has been sustained as a result of engaging in sporting activities. Deep tissue massage is similar to a sports massage since both may be used to treat an injury.
However, a deep tissue massage occurs at a slower pace when compared to a sports massage.
Deep tissue massage and the elimination of adhesions
When you experience muscle injury or muscle tension, you may experience ‘adhesions’ in the affected area. This is when the tissue becomes rigid and painful. Adhesions occur in many different tissue types such as muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Why do adhesions cause pain? Because adhesions may disrupt the circulation of blood into the affected tissue. This causes pain and inflammation.
How does deep tissue massage correct this? Well, it’s really quite simple, since deep tissue massage works by literally breaking down adhesions entirely. Once adhesions are broken down, the associated pain caused by adhesions is also removed. The breakdown of adhesions also restores movement of muscles.
Deep tissue massage for treating lower back pain
Deep tissue massage is particularly useful for treating lower back pain. This study illustrates the superiority of deep tissue massage for treating lower back pain when compared to other forms of massage therapy. The study involved participants who all suffered from lower back pain. The participants were split into two groups. The first group received therapeutic massage and the other group received deep tissue massage therapy. Each group received treatment for a ten day period. Massage sessions lasted for thirty minutes each day.
The results of the study were clear: Those participants who received deep tissue massage experienced a far greater reduction in lower back pain when compared to those who received therapeutic massage therapy. The therapeutic massage utilised friction and tapping techniques, whereas deep-tissue massage utilised a ‘combination of lengthening and cross fibre strokes.’
Can deep tissue massage lower blood pressure?
The answer to this question is an emphatic yes! Studies reveal that deep tissue massage lowers arterial blood pressure in adults who experience high blood pressure problems. Participants in this study were around 48 years old. After receiving deep tissue massage, the study’s participants experienced a 10.8 beats per minute reduction in heart rate as a result of receiving deep tissue massage.
Can deep tissue massage reduce muscle tension, stress and anxiety?
Fortunately, deep tissue massage is proven to reduce muscle tension, stress and anxiety. Essentially, when you receive deep tissue massage, you will relax because you will reduce the amount of stress hormone your body produces known as cortisol. You will also increase the amount of oxytocin. Oxytocin helps you relax. That’s why it’s common for oxytocin to be given to women who are going through child labour.
Can deep tissue massage be used to help reduce scar tissue?
If you have recently undergone surgery or sustained an injury that caused scar tissue, then you may consider reducing that scar tissue by undergoing a course of deep tissue massage.
Why does deep tissue massage reduce scar tissue? Because deep tissue massage reduces inflammation, improves blood flow to scar tissue and reduces the stress hormone known as cortisol.
When you undergo an injury, you will likely experience stress as a result. This stress makes you tense. Stress is also accompanied with inflammation that prevents blood from correctly flowing to the site of your injury. These factors slow down the speed of recovery. Deep tissue massage speeds up recovery by reducing stress and also helping blood reach muscles that are damaged due by injury or surgery.
When should you consider deep tissue massage?
Deep tissue massage is a fairly specific treatment, and it is only recommendable in certain situations. Because deep tissue massage is such an invasive approach to massage therapy, many people may simply wish to undergo the procedure because they believe their needs are sufficiently great to warrant deep tissue massage.
In many case, these people will typically only require less invasive forms of massage such as a Swedish massage.
Below we list situations that may warrant the use of deep tissue massage:
- For injuries sustained in a sport
- For injuries sustained in a road traffic accident
- To treat chronic muscle pain, including pack pain
- For people with limited mobility
- To treat repetitive strain injuries e.g. carpall tunnel syndrome
- To treat osteoarthritis pain
- To treat tennis elbow
- To treat piriformis syndrome
- To treat fibromyalgia pain
Please be aware the above is not intended as a comprehensive list of when deep tissue massage is recommendable. We are merely stressing that deep tissue massage should be reserved to treat tangible disorders. That’s why a deep tissue massage is classed as a ‘remedial massage.’
If you require a massage merely to combat stress and other mental issues, we would recommend you receive other forms of massage treatment such as a Swedish massage.
How a deep tissue massage differs from other forms of massage therapy
When you attend a deep tissue massage session, you will notice the massage therapist uses slower and higher pressure strokes when compared to other forms of massage. The massage therapist will utilise his or her knuckles, elbows and forearms. You will also notice your threshold for discomfort is tested, although the therapist will ask you to feedback your discomfort levels so he or she does not inflict pain upon you.
What muscle groups does deep tissue massage target?
When you receive deep tissue massage, the massage therapist will typically focus on the major muscle groups located in the lower back, the neck, the hip, and the shoulders. These muscles are most susceptible to injuries, stress and strain. This means these muscles are most likely to benefit from deep tissue massage.
Declarations you must make before receiving deep tissue massage
When you receive deep tissue massage, you must inform the massage therapist of any existing medical conditions you suffer from. For instance, if you suffer from blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, you must inform your massage therapist before deep tissue massage therapy begins.
Why? Because the intensity of deep tissue massage is capable of dislodging a blood clot with potential catastrophic consequences.
Further, if you have recently undergone any form of surgery, you must also inform your therapist of this fact without delay. This is because deep tissue massage may cause a hernia or disturb the healing process.
Below we list a number of situations where a deep tissue massage should either be avoided or approached with caution:
- When you are pregnant
- When you have undergone chemotherapy
- When your skin is bruised or inflamed
- When you have undergone any form of medical procedure
If you are subject to any of the above in the last nine months, you should generally consult your doctor before you enquire about deep tissue massage.
Getting in touch
If you would like to learn more about deep tissue massage, contact us today on 07904 786 888 or submit an enquiry through this website. We offer submit deep tissue massage in London< for competitive prices.
About the author of this article
My name is Lubna and I am a Holistic Food Coach, Natural Chef, Massage Specialist & Yoga teacher. I am passionate about your health and well-being. Now, health and well-being is my life! I practice yoga every morning. I attend and support my community fitness centre and I have recently learned how to swim.