Understanding Deep Tissue Massage

by Rachael Forrest

There are so many different types of massage about that we thought it would be useful to clarify some of the terminology around it - starting with Deep Tissue Massage.

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I once went for a voucher spa session which included a 'massage of your choice'. Because my back was tight, I asked for Deep Tissue which resulted in 30 minutes of excruciating pain and increased tension in my back.  Having had this type of massage before, I knew it was no walk in the park but the mistake the therapist made was to go directly to a deep level of massage, using her elbows, without warming and relaxing the surface layers of muscle first.  All in all, I needed quite a few glasses of wine afterwards to come down from the stress of the treatment! 

A properly qualified and experienced massage therapist knows exactly how to work gradually through the muscle layers to target the deeper areas of muscle and fascia concerned.  By using deep finger pressure and slow, firm strokes, deep tissue massage is used to treat a variety of physical ailments.  Many will argue that true Deep Tissue techniques aren't really "massage" in the sense that most people think of it - soothing music, aromatherapy oils and gentle swirling massage strokes.  In many cases, the treatment more resembles Physical Therapy than Massage Therapy, however, the benefits definitely outweigh any negatives and if you're looking for results and relief from chronic pain and other conditions, then deep tissue massage is for you. Below are some of the ways it can help.

Reduces Chronic Pain
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies. Because deep-tissue massage increases the flow of blood through through the body, it helps reduce the inflammation that causes pain. Deep-tissue massage can also help alleviate muscle tension that is often a side effect of chronic pain by loosening the tight tissue clusters.

Improves Blood Pressure
Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.

Rehabilitates Injured Muscles
Deep-tissue massage can be an effective treatment for injured muscles. Because it facilitates the movement of toxins from the muscles and helps stretch tight or twisted muscle mass, deep-tissue massage can help promote healing. Because massage also helps relax muscles, it can reduce the pain caused by injuries, too. Deep-tissue massage is frequently used to rehabilitate sports injuries.

Breaks Up Scar Tissue 

Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery

Stress Relief
For those people who suffer from chronic stress, and all of its various, possible side-effects like tension headaches, rigid shoulders and tight muscles; deep tissue massage can be a relief. During a session you can let it all go and give in to the healing. Once renewed and revitalized you'll be able to face your challenges more equitably.