Deep tissue massage is a form of specialized bodywork that utilizes slow strokes and firm application of pressure in order to stimulate the deeper layers of muscle tissue, including the tendons and fascia (a.k.a. connective tissue). This type of technique is used to help relieve chronic aches and pains, as well as to loosen up stiff or tightly contracted areas such as the upper and lower back, neck, leg muscles, and shoulders. When performed by an experienced bodywork specialist, this technique has been shown to offer a wide array of health benefits, including:
- Relieving lower back pain
- Increasing mobility and range of motion
- Relief from repetitive strain injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Helping to correct posture problems
- Easing muscle tension in the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, rhomboids, upper back, and iliotibial (IT) band
- Reducing pain associated with sciatica
- Alleviating symptoms of piriformis syndrome
- Relieving pain and sensitivity associated with fibromyalgia
- Easing pain and weakness associated with tennis elbow
- Relieving neck and/or upper back pain
How It Works
While many of the strokes and movements used in deep tissue massage are similar to those of Swedish massage, the primary difference is the amount of pressure being applied. Since this bodywork technique is designed to address the deeper parts of the muscle, it will require the massage therapist to apply firmer, more intense pressure than what is generally experienced with a Swedish or relaxation massage. During a typical session, the muscles are "warmed up" with light pressure movements at first, and then specific techniques are applied with heavier pressure in order to break down fibrious adhesions (a.k.a. knots) and/or scar tissue, both of which can hinder blood flow and produce inflammation or a limited range of motion. Common techniques include stripping (applying firm pressure lengthwise up and down the muscle fibers) and friction (cross-grain pressure applied to muscle fibers), both of which are performed using the fingertips, knuckles, elbows, thumbs, and/or forearms.
Does It Hurt?
This is one of the most common questions about this particular technique. To be quite candid, there are times when you might experience some significant discomfort or even pain in areas where the massage therapist is working to break up scar tissue or fibrous adhesions. While the old adage "no pain, no gain" might apply in some cases, you don't want to assume that the technique is working just because you feel pain. Be sure to communicate any time you feel substantial pain, so that the massage therapist can adjust their bodywork technique accordingly. It may be that your superficial muscles will need a little more prepping before the therapist can begin working on the deeper muscle layers.
What to Expect
This type of bodywork is excellent for increasing blood flow and stimulating the movement of lymph (an infection-fighting fluid produced by the body's lymphatic system) throughout the body. When this happens, the muscles are revitalized and toxins are flushed from your system. It is commonly recommended for you to drink plenty of water after your session, as this will also help reinvigorate the muscles by flushing out metabolic waste. After your session, you might feel a little sore or stiff, but this will typically go away within 24-48 hours.
Multiple studies have shown that there are quite a few health benefits that can be derived from deep tissue massage. Since the goals of this technique are different than that of other types of massage, be sure to book a consultation with me at Blissful Balance Massage in Stony Plain, AB to see if this particular form of therapy is the right fit for you.