Deep tissue massage is a popular term used by health clinics and spas alike. It’s frequently offered on a menu along with other types of massage. Despite its frequent use, very few people know exactly what deep tissue massage is or how it’s different from other massage techniques. This blog will hopefully help to explain what it is, how its different, and how it can help you.
Deep tissue massage is a fairly broad term used to describe a type of massage therapy. The most agreed upon definition of deep tissue massage is that it’s focused and therapeutic, targeting specific problems in muscles and connective tissue (fascia). The goal of deep tissue massage is to create structural change, usually because there is pain or disfunction that needs to be addressed.
Deep tissue massage can be an excellent alternative health treatment. In a survey done by consumerreports.org, participants with neck pain reported deep tissue massage was more effective than prescription medication. The same survey also found that participants with chronic pain like fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis found deep tissue massage very helpful. Deep tissue massage can be used to treat chronic muscle tension (like the kind you get from sitting at a desk all day). It can also be used to rehabilitate injuries, relieve pain, or improve mobility.
Deep tissue massage is just a “hard” massage.
False – Deep tissue massage doesn’t require any extra effort or strength. It requires a deep knowledge of the body’s structures, specialized training, and specific application.
Deep tissue massage is just Swedish massage with more pressure.
False – Although some of the strokes may feel similar, the intention of deep tissue massage is different from Swedish massage. The goal of deep tissue massage is to alter structure and muscle restrictions to ease pain or to facilitate rehabilitation. Pleasure is not the primary goal.
Deep tissue massage should hurt.
False – “no pain no gain” does not apply to deep tissue massage. You may have moments of discomfort throughout your massage if your therapist is working on an adhesion or scar tissue. This does not mean your entire massage should be painful; deep work can be done painlessly.
You may be sore after your massage.
True – Even if your massage wasn’t particularly uncomfortable or painful, you may still experience some stiffness or soreness afterward. This is very normal and will last one to two days at the most. Just be sure to drink plenty of water.
Just because a business is offering deep tissue massage, it doesn’t mean they will actually be using healthy and/or safe massage techniques. Always make sure your therapist is licensed. Here in the US you will see LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) or LMP (Licensed Massage Practitioner) after your licensed therapist’s name. Other countries have regulations as well. It also helps to look for phrases like myofacial release or trigger points therapy. This way, you know your therapist has specialized training in deeper work.
Hopefully this sheds some light on deep tissue massage. Always remember, the best way to get the most out of your massage is to communicate with your therapist. Be your own pressure gauge. Click here to schedule an appointment!
LMT, Pilates Instructor
and Founder of Inertia6
Rachael has a passion for movement and her athletic training and experience give her body-awareness and insight.