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What is Deep Tissue Massage

What is Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is designed to relieve severe tension, and focuses on realigning the deeper layers of muscle and the connective tissue or fascia (A fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding those structures together in much the same manner as plastic wrap can be used to hold the contents of sandwiches together).

This type of massage focuses on the muscles located below the surface of the top muscles. Deep tissue massage is often recommended for individuals who experience consistent pain, are involved in heavy physical activity (such as athletes), and patients who have sustained physical injury. It is especially helpful for chronically tense and contracted areas such as stiff necks, low back 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.

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 often uses direct deep pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles.

At certain points during the massage, most people find there is usually some discomfort and pain. It is not uncommon for receivers of deep tissue massage to have their pain replaced with a new muscle ache for a day or two. The massage therapist may recommend applying ice to the area after the massage.

Unlike classic massage therapy, which is used for relaxation, deep tissue massage usually focuses on a specific problem, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Recovery from injuries (e.g. whiplash, falls, sports injury)
  • Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Postural problems
  • Ostearthritis pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Muscle tension or spasm

Deep tissue massage is known to be more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, exercise, prescription medications, chiropractic, acupuncture, diet, glucosamine and over-the-counter drugs. It is also helpful for fibromyalgia pain. People often notice improved range of motion immediately after a deep tissue massage.

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. It is important to drink plenty of water as you can after the massage to flush metabolic waste from the tissues.

The term “deep tissue” is often misused to identify a massage that is performed with sustained deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is a separate category of massage therapy, used to treat particular muscular-skeletal disorders and complaints and employs a dedicated set of techniques and strokes of deliberate, focused work to achieve a measure of relief.

It should not be confused with “deep pressure” massage, which is one that is performed with sustained strong, occasionally intense pressure throughout an entire full-body session, and that is not performed to address a specific complaint.

When a client asks for a massage and uses the term “deep tissue”, more often than not he or she is seeking to receive a full-body session with sustained deep pressure throughout. If a practitioner employs deep tissue techniques on the entire body in one session, it would be next to impossible to perform; it might lead to injury or localized muscle and nerve trauma, thereby rendering the session counterproductive.


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