Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is especially helpful for chronic aches and pains and contracted areas such as stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.
Some of the same strokes are used as classic massage therapy, but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain in order to reach the sub-layer of muscles and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles).
How Does It Work?
When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation.
Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement. To do this, the massage therapist uses massage oil and often uses direct deep pressure. Muscles must be relaxed in order for the therapist to reach the deeper musculature.
Does Deep Tissue Massage Hurt?
At certain points during the massage, most people find there is usually some discomfort and pain.
It is important to tell the massage therapist when things hurt and if any soreness or pain you experience is outside your comfort range.
There is usually some stiffness or pain after a deep tissue massage, but it should subside within a day or so. The massage therapist may recommend applying ice to the area after the massage.
Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage usually focuses on a specific problem, such as chronic muscle pain, injury rehabilitation, and the following conditions:
Lower back pain
Recovery from injuries (e.g. whiplash, falls, sports injury)
Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
Muscle tension in the hamstrings, glutes, IT band, legs, quadriceps, rhomboids, upper back
Muscle tension or spasm
After a workout or bodybuilding
People often notice improved range of motion immediately after a deep tissue massage.
Massage is not recommended for certain people:
Infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds
Immediately after surgery
Immediately after chemotherapy or radiation, unless recommended by your doctor
People with osteoporosis should consult their doctor before getting a massage
Prone to blood clots. There is a risk of blood clots being dislodged. If you have heart disease, check with your doctor before having a massage
Pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are considering getting a massage. Massage in pregnant women should be done by massage therapists who are trained in pregnancy massage.
Massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.
Tips and After Care
Don't eat a heavy meal before the massage.
If it's your first time at the clinic or spa, arrive at least 10 minutes early to complete the necessary forms. Otherwise, arrive 5 minutes early so you can have a few minutes to rest and relax before starting the massage.
A deep tissue massage may result in muscle soreness or tenderness, which may last a day or two. Your massage therapist may recommend icing any painful areas.
Drinking water after the massage may help to flush out toxins that are released from muscles and properly rehydrate muscles, which can help to reduce muscle aches and stiffness after a massage.
Avoid strenuous activity after a massage.
Stretching can help to prevent muscle aches and pain after a deep tissue massage.