What is Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep Tissue Massage uses firm pressure and slow strokes to reach the deeper layers of muscle beneath the skin. It’s used for strong aches and pains, and contracted areas such as a stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.
Deep Tissue Massage isn’t the same as having a regular massage with deep pressure. It’s used to break up scar tissue and physically break down muscle “knots” that can disrupt circulation and cause pain, limited range of motion, and inflammation.
At the beginning of the massage, lighter pressure is generally applied to warm up and prep the muscles. Specific techniques are then applied. The most common techniques include:
1. Stripping – deep, gliding pressure along the length of the muscle fibers using the elbow, forearm, knuckles, and thumbs
2. Friction – pressure applied across the grain of a muscle to release adhesions and realign tissue fibers
What Are the Benefits Of Deep Tissue Massage?
The benefits of deep tissue massage are usually focused on specific problems, such as the following:
- Lower back pain
- Limited mobility
- Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Postural problems
- Muscle tension in the hamstrings, glutes, IT band, legs, quadriceps, rhomboids, upper back
- Osteoarthritis pain
- Sports concerns (runners, athletes)
- Piriformis syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Upper back or neck pain
- Deep tissue massage can also greatly improve ones range of motion immediately after a deep tissue massage.
Is Deep Tissue Massage Painful?
At certain points during the massage, you may feel some discomfort or even some pain as the massage therapist works on problem areas. You should always tell your massage therapist if you feel pain during the massage. The therapist can adjust the technique or further prep the tissues if the superficial muscles are tense.
Pain isn’t necessarily good, and it’s not necessarily a sign that the massage is working. In fact, your body may tense up in response to pain, making it harder for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.
After the massage, you may feel some stiffness or soreness, but it should subside within a day or so.
Drinking water after the massage may help to flush the metabolic waste from the tissues.
Is Deep Tissue Massage Safe For Everyone?
Deep tissue massage may not be safe for people with blood clots (e.g. thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis), due to the risk that they may become dislodged. If you have blood clots or are at risk of forming blood clots, it’s essential that you consult your doctor first.
Massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed or infected skin, skin rashes, unhealed or open wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, fragile bones, or areas of recent fractures.
Deep Tissue Massage can produce side effects, including bruising. People have reported venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hematoma, and posterior interosseous syndrome after deep tissue massage.
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If you’ve had recent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or any other medical procedure, it’s wise to check with your doctor before starting massage therapy. Some people with osteoporosis should avoid the deeper pressure of this type of massage.
If you have any condition, it’s important to consult your primary care provider beforehand to find out what type they recommend. For example, people with certain conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, may not be able to tolerate the pain of a deep tissue massage.
Pregnant people should check with their doctors first if they are considering getting a massage. Deep tissue massage (or any strong pressure) should be avoided during pregnancy, but your doctor may suggest a massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage.