What is a Deep Tissue Massage?

Published November 11th, 2021 by Erik Rivera
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

What is a deep tissue massage? | Benefits | Process | Differences | Side Effects

A deep tissue massage is a type of bodywork that focuses on deep layers of muscle and connective tissue. Athletes, those recovering from an injury, or those seeking relief from chronic pain or muscle tension may benefit the most from deep tissue massage. A deep tissue massage can be done with various techniques including friction, pressure point work, stretching, and trigger point release. Read more to find out what deep tissue massages are all about.

What is a deep tissue massage?

A deep tissue massage is a more intense type of massage that focuses on the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissues. They can focus on a specific area or the entire body. Deep tissue massage is a deep pressure therapy that is applied deep into the muscle to relieve chronic pain, stiffness, and tense muscles. A deep tissue massage can also help with injury recovery by breaking down scar tissue and adhesions in the muscles. They are best for those who have been experiencing pain or discomfort for many months or years.

Deep tissue massage

What are the benefits of a deep tissue massage?

A deep tissue massage can help with not only physical issues but also emotional problems. Deep tissues may be able to relieve chronic pain, reduce stress and tension in the muscles, break down adhesions that have formed around injured areas of tissue, such as a pulled muscle, improve range-of-motion, increase circulation which will bring more oxygen and nutrients to the deep tissues, and promote relaxation.

A deep tissue massage can be beneficial to the following people:

  • athletes who are recovering from an injury or seeking relief for chronic pain
  • those with painful conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, sciatica, plantar fasciitis,  etc. that have been caused by overuse of muscles and joints
  • high blood pressure, deep tissue massage has been shown to lower high blood pressure too

What does the masseuse do during a deep tissue massage?

A deep tissue massage can be done through various techniques including friction, pressure point work, and trigger point release. The deep tissue massage therapist may also stretch the muscles and use other techniques to release deep tensions in the tissues. The deep tissue massage technique your therapist uses is dependent on the person and location of the massage.

The masseuse will apply deep, sustained pressure into your muscles that are sometimes uncomfortable but help to break up knots and adhesions, which are those abnormal bands of fibrous tissue talked about above, which can be painful. Deep tissue massages are performed with the client on their back and are usually performed on a massage table.

What is the difference between deep tissue massages and Swedish massages?

A deep tissue massage therapy is a form of massage that uses deeper pressure than a regular Swedish massage, which means that you can expect to feel some pain or discomfort during your deep tissue session. A deep tissue therapist will apply firm pressure into your deep tissues with techniques such as friction and cross fiber frictions, which are the type of massage strokes that help to release tension in the muscles. The deep tissue therapist will apply circular movements all along your muscle fibers for about five to ten minutes before they go deeper into the muscle by holding their hands still over an area while exerting deep pressure into the muscles.

There are several different massage types but deep tissue and Swedish massages often get confused. Swedish massages are perfect for those who want a lighter touch and prefer a more relaxing massage that uses long gliding strokes to help soothe tired, sore, or injured muscle tissues. Swedish massages can be used asa massage for relaxation therapy after an intense workout session, similar to sports massages,  which might have pulled some of your deep tissues.

Where can I get a deep tissue massage?

You can receive deep tissues at many spas or through private sessions with an experienced therapist. If you are looking for more affordable deep tissue massages, there are some health centers that offer basic techniques of deep tissues to the public on a walk-in basis. You should always check if the deep tissue therapist is certified in deep tissues and is a licensed massage therapist to perform massages.

What are the side effects of deep tissue massage?

Some deep tissues may not be appropriate for those who have health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, severe osteoporosis, cancerous growths, or active tumors anywhere in the body, deep tissue massage may be too deep for these people.

There is also a risk of puncturing or tearing skin during deep tissues so those who have conditions such as blood clots should avoid receiving deep tissues until they are cleared by their doctor. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease then it is best to consult your physician before receiving deep tissues.

Patients with blood disorders or who are taking blood thinners should avoid deep tissue massages and deep tissue massages should never be used on babies, children, the elderly, and those with dementia since they may cause them to go into shock or actually strain muscles in their bodies even though it is a relaxing massage. If you have osteoporosis or have cancer in your bones you should also not get this massage as there is a risk of breaking brittle bones with the pressure exerted by the masseuse.

Deep tissue massages can cause muscle soreness and fatigue which is normal, but if you experience severe pain or discomfort during deep tissues then it may be best to stop your session right away.

What does deep tissue massage feel like?

Some people say that receiving deep tissue can hurt but deep tissue massages are not supposed to be painful, deep tissues help the pain go away. The deep pressure of deep tissues is meant to release muscular tension that can cause pain in your body for hours after you leave a deep tissue massage session.

Summary

A deep tissue massage is a type of therapeutic massage therapy that applies pressure deep into the muscles to release tension in your body and improve circulation in your blood vessels and for pain reduction. The deep tissues therapist will usually apply friction, cross fiber frictions, or hold their hands still over an area while applying deep pressure into the deep tissues. There are different types of deep tissue massages that can be applied depending on your preferences and what you want to achieve with deep tissues. The difference between deep tissue massages and Swedish massages is that deep tissues use deeper pressure than regular Swedish techniques and they can cause pain or discomfort, whereas Swedish only uses gliding strokes to help soothe muscles, relax them, and relieve tension. Deep tissue is not meant to hurt but it could cause muscle soreness or fatigue after receiving deep tissue massages for an extended period of time, so make sure if this massage is right for you before receiving deep tissues. Always check for a deep tissue therapist license and certification before receiving deep tissues to prevent injuries, discomfort, or other problems such as infections from un-hygienic massage techniques used by non-licensed deep tissue therapists. If you have any health conditions that may be affected by deep tissues then always consult your doctor first before receiving deep tissue massages.

References and Sources:

scite.ai

amtamassage.org

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

nsmi.org.uk

mayoclinic.org

nccih.nih.gov

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