Actually, deep tissue massage is precisely what it says on the tin! It’s an invigorating massage which works on deeper layers of muscle than normal Therapeutic, Swedish or Holistic massage.
It combines a variety of techniques although it also features to a certain degree in most massage methods.
Through a process of detection, stiff or painful areas are determined by the texture and quality of the deeper layers of musculature. Your therapist will use slower and firmer pressure slowly moving into the deep layers of muscle and concentrating on areas of tension and discomfort; usually those muscles that are tight or knotted.
Strokes generally go across or along the muscle fibers, tendons and fascia (rather than along them) with the intention of realigning them. More often, the strokes will go across the grain of the muscle with deep pressure or friction which helps to break up and eliminate scar tissue.
Deep tissue massage usually focuses on a particular problem area, and it is not unusual to feel some soreness following the session – however, if it is done correctly, this should vanish quickly and you will feel better than ever within a day or two. Thus, it is an ideal therapy for injuries or persistent muscular problems, and works well in conjunction with other more manual or manipulative therapies such as chiropractic, physiotherapy and osteopathy.
Most massage therapists use mostly their hands and fingers, but with deep tissue massage as well as many of the common massage strokes it is common for the forearms, elbows, knuckles and wrist to be used in helping manipulate the patient’s muscles and soft tissues. Using these larger surface areas (on the therapist!) help to get a deep even pressure over a larger area without it feeling uncomfortable, and specific hand positions and strokes are used to respond to various tissue qualities. Your therapist develops a keen sense of touch in these areas, and is easily able to feel areas of tension and knots in the muscle fibers. The goal of the treatment plan will normally be to relax the muscles and soft tissue structures, increase blood and oxygen to the area, warm the affected area, relieve any pain or discomfort, and to help in the elimination of any toxins into the bloodstream; these will be eliminated later (and facilitated by drinking more water).
The purpose of a deep tissue massage is to “unstick” the muscle fibers whilst releasing chronic patterns of tension, whilst at the same time relaxing and soothing you mentally, physically and emotionally. When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, bands of painful and rigid tissue (adhesions) are usually found in muscles, ligaments and tendons. Adhesions can block circulation, cause pain and inflammation, and limit movement. As the treatment relieves the tension in muscles connective tissue and fascia, the therapist concentrates on the muscles located below the top layer, and this begins to unblock circulation, breaking down any adhesions and restoring normal movement. The patient will also begin to relax on planes other than the physical one. Techniques employing the breath and movement are sometimes used for releasing muscular tension.
Typically, oil is used to help the therapists hands glide over your skin, sometimes (in case of allergy) talcum powder or a cream/lotion may be substituted. A variety of carrier oils are used depending on the situation presenting – Arnica and Mustard for example are useful for spasming and painful muscles, calendula and macademia for eczema, and peach or apricot kernel for ladies who have dry skin following the menopause.
Although researchers are still studying the effects of massage therapy on many health conditions it is already very clear that massage therapy promotes relaxation while reducing stress. Consider these two points in conjunction with deep tissue massage, and you have a really great therapy that can help you revolutionize your life!
Firstly, as noted above, it must be reiterated that that a deep tissue massage feels great and is very beneficial to your health!
It is both a corrective and therapeutic treatment and is particularly helpful for areas which get very contracted such as stiff necks with a low range of movement, low back pain (across the belt area) and tight and sore shoulders. When muscles get tight, they block oxygen and nutrients to particular areas causing an inflammation and buildup of toxins in the muscle cells (you might be prone to tension in the neck, the shoulders, the lower back?). As the treatment relaxes the muscles, the inflammation in these areas may automatically decrease, but the massage itself also works on a physiological level to break down the toxins in the muscles releasing many toxins and it also helps to increase blood (nutrients) and oxygen to the areas. As the toxins are then collected up by the bloodstream, it is really important to drink plenty of fresh, (filtered) water following the session to help flush them out of the body.
The slow and relaxing pressure of a deep tissue massage has been shown to enhance circulation and eliminate congestion by breaking down areas of tension whether small or large by helping to disperse toxins into the bloodstream for elimination whilst loosening those tight muscles and of course, by providing an intense relaxation both physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Firstly, it is always recommended that you arrive early for your first appointment to fill in any necessary documentation, and for subsequent appointments, aim to arrive a few minutes early so you can have a glass of water and relax before your session. Don’t eat a heavy meal before the treatment, and try not to plan anything too major following – as you may feel quite “zonked out”!
The treatment starts off with a consultation, and a comprehensive medical history is taken, including any details of medications, herbal remedies and supplements. Lifestyle herbal and supplement advice may be discussed at this point. Your therapist will also discuss any aims you have with your treatment and any problem areas.
After the consultation is finished, you will be shown how to get onto the table, and clothing requirements will be explained. Most people strip down to their underwear for treatment, which is done is a very discrete manner and in a warm and safe environment with relaxing music.
Your therapist will leave the room allowing you to get changed in private both at the beginning and end of the session.
Once your deep tissue massage commences, your therapist will warm up the muscles using lighter techniques, gradually getting deeper as problematic areas are identified. As the treatment becomes deeper, so it will become slower.
You may experience some small areas of tenderness or soreness – it is always very useful to identify these to your therapist if they haven’t already been noticed and they are outside of your comfort zone. This means the treatment can be tailored around these. Your treatment will feel deep, but should not hurt or cause you to feel tense. The main aim is always to work as deeply as possibly whilst keeping the client as relaxed as possible – so that you gain the maximum benefit achievable.
Following your deep tissue massage and after you have dressed in private, you will always be provided with a glass of water, and your therapist will reiterate any advice to you that they feel is necessary.
It may be suggested that ice is applied to the area if you have any short term stiffness following the treatment – however this should subside quickly within a day or two.
Your therapist will suggest that you drink plenty of fluids (mainly water) following your session, to help flush out metabolic toxins from the bloodstream as mentioned above.
We should probably note here that when you come for a deep tissue massage, you come both to be relaxed as well as to maybe tackle particular physical or muscular problems. You’re unlikely to go to sleep (although it has been known!), but you also shouldn’t be flinching in pain. The treatments are intended to be a relaxing yet therapeutic blend. As such, those who suffer with anxiety and stress related issues will find a multitude of benefits, not least a better quality of sleep and a greater mental clarity.
This treatment can be combined with stress management, clinical or holistic aromatherapy, and some aspects of Indian head massage can be utilised to make it more pampering and relaxing.
There are some precautions where massage is not recommended. These include the following:
There are very few non-pleasurable effects of a deep tissue massage. It should be noted that following the treatment, it is advisable to drink plenty of water, and to avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine.
It is very uncommon, but you can feel a little nauseous after a treatment which heavily works your thoracic area, or perhaps a little lightheaded or woozy after either a long or fairly intensive session, or a session which works the neck or head area thoroughly. It is common to feel sleepy following, yet conversely you can also feel totally invigorated. The best and least known effect is the mental clarity following a treatment. You should feel very relaxed and peaceful after your session.
Generalised research on massage therapy (MT) has shown three major areas of benefit:
Unlike a classic massage, deep tissue treatment usually focuses on a specific problem. It can also be used by those who do not like a light pressure for stress relief and relaxation, however the most commonly treated physical problems are:
Try doing a search on google for massage and lower back pain, and see how many research papers, meta analysis or reports you can find…. Lots I would imagine! Let’s summarise them. Many studies have found that massage can help back pain, especially lower back pain (LBP). Massage can also help the side effects of LBP – including depression, anxiety and sleep quality; range of motion should be improved following a treatment, and serotonin and dopamine levels are often enhanced – making you feel happier and also better enabled to deal with life’s situations.
So how does massage therapy reduce muscle pain? Muscles that are in spasm are painful to touch; this pain is caused by ischemic muscle tissue lacking the proper blood supply – which is usually blocked by the spasm. This also means that the muscle does not receive an adequate oxygen supply, which then means if the muscle is required to work it does so anerobically, and thus produces far more lactic acid – a toxin to the body which causes the soreness you feel following any physical activity.
Massage can help to relax any muscle spasms, and works to boost the circulation – returning blood and oxygen to the area and clearing any lactic acid build up. Following the treatment, any soreness which presents should fade after 24-36 hours, and any tight areas should be more relaxed for 4-14 days following – this depends on levels of stress, physical activity and the severity of the LBP prior to treatment. If the muscle does not relax in response to the treatment this is usually because there is inflammation present – at which point remedies such as magnesium (a muscle relaxant) or arnica (similar to deep heat, but natural!), another discipline and/or ice/heat should be prescribed.
Although your therapist will tailor your treatment to suit your ailments, a general guide is that most muscle spasms will take between 2-6 treatments usually over a course of weeks; with the period between treatments gradually extending as the problem areas begin to respond.
If you experience neck and shoulder pain during everyday activities such as driving, working or sleeping, or you wake up with a headache, are unable to look over your shoulder or just feel that your neck is tense and uncomfortable then massage is the therapy for you. Deep tissue massage is able to work on many different levels to help you to relax, reduce your pain and regain movement in your neck and shoulders.
Neck and shoulder pain/ tension are one of the most commonly presenting problems to massage therapists and these problems are usually caused by stress. Stress, anxiety and tiredness can work on the body to cause tension headaches, neck pain or generalised discomfort. The importance of the neck/shoulder area structurally means that any tension can cause overall pain and discomfort and can also cause other problems such as headaches, misalignment of the pelvis and lower back pain. The discomfort caused by stress and tension in the neck and shoulders can furthermore reduce mobility and range of movement in the neck and shoulder – massage can reduce the discomfort and increase range of movement, together with helping to reduce the overall muscular stiffness, and allowing both nutrients and oxygen back into the area whilst clearing toxins.
A very good marker for neck and shoulder tension is tingling and numbness in the fingers. This is a classic sign of carpal tunnel syndrome, but due to the placement of the brachial plexus (basically a bunch of nerves) in the shoulder area any tension of the shoulder muscles can cause a slight impingement and thus the tingling. Relaxing the muscles though massage can present an immediate solution, but being more aware of the cause will help too. The tension most of us carry in our necks and shoulders is usually totally unconscious, and it doesn’t take much stress or anxiety to bring about additional tension; worsening the problem. Very small contractions of the muscles held all day whilst you sit at your desk (holding the telephone between shoulder and ear, or working on the computer) can cause symptoms which may present later on in the evening or at night. A simple solution is to several times a day breathe deeply in and raise your shoulders; hold this for a few seconds then breathe out slowly and, imagining weights attached to your hands, drop your shoulders down again as far as they will go. This may help any symptoms a little, but seeing a professional therapist to manually clear out the toxins and to reconnect the muscles to a good nutrient and oxygen supply will give a much longer term solution.
Often caused by shoulder and/or neck tension, stress or muscular tension related Headaches can often be easily helped by massage treatments.
This information has been subdivided into chronic pain, rheumatoid or arthritic pain, and fibromyalgia.
This is a condition characterised by a varying degree of muscle aches and pains and body pain – including bone and joint pain – and patients can experience a range of different symptoms and types of pain. This pain can range from stiffness to severe and chronic pain; it can be widespread affecting muscle, ligament, tendon and joints. There are many varying treatments offered through the conventional system, but an increasing number of FMS patients are turning to massage as they discover how revolutionising it can be for them.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the illness, FMS is one of the conditions which requires regular treatments. It is thought that the muscle pains experiences with this disorder come from a build-up of lactic acid. The massage helps to clear this into the bloodstream for elimination – reducing the pain, relaxing the muscles and the mind, and generally soothing the patient. To reduce the build up of lactic acid and increase flexibility in those stiff and painful muscles, treatments must be had on a regular basis.
Consumer Reports Magazine (Aug 05) reported that 34,000 people graded deep tissue massage more effective in the relief of pain from osteoarthritis than physical therapy (IE physiotherapy), chiropractic, acupuncture, exercise, prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs including glucosamine & chondroitin and diet. It was also given a top ranking for the relief of fibromyalgia pain.
It is often commented on following a treatment that there is a noticeably enhanced range of movement directly following the massage.