Deep Tissue Massages
What is a deep tissue massage?
Deep tissue massage is based on principles of western anatomy, and is the broad term for therapeutic or clinical body work. Deep tissue massage techniques are targeted to work with connective tissue and fascia and are best suited for clients rehabilitating from soft tissue injuries, or those suffering from chronic pain.
Since deep tissue is an umbrella term meant to encompass a variety of techniques, it is important to remember that no two deep tissue massages will be the same. There is a world of different approaches to deep tissue massage, and each massage therapist comes to the table with a unique set of skills, specialized training, and a well-developed philosophy about their approach to the work.
No matter the technique, the goals for a deep tissue massage are therapeutic, and the massage may involve client participation, sensations of discomfort, and some residual soreness.
What does a typical deep tissue massage session look like?
All western variations of deep tissue massage use the basic techniques and principles of Swedish massage to warm superficial tissue and to prepare the body for deeper work. Because of this, a deep tissue massage is performed on a massage table with oil, lotion, and a wide range of salves, ointments and tinctures may also be used.
The therapist will start by warming superficial muscles and then move on to deeper muscles as the tissues relax. Depending on the area to be covered or the technique being used, the therapist may use their thumbs, knuckles, elbows or forearms as tools to address specified target areas.
Broad strokes are slow and deep, and detailed work on attachment sights and adhesions is commonly done with a combination of muscle stripping (a combing along the length of muscle fibers), and deep friction (a strumming across the grain of muscle fibers).
Some specific techniques a therapist may use include myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and neuromuscular therapy. The therapist may ask the client to participate in active or passive stretching, and may be more actively engaged with the client than they would be in a relaxation massage. Session lengths are typically 60 or 90 minutes in length and are focused on target areas of the body.
It’s important to remember that long standing structural imbalances, or a history of chronic pain cannot be relieved by one session alone, and may require several regular sessions over an extended period of time. After the massage, the therapist will provide recommendations for a treatment plan, and offer suggestions for at home care and alternative therapies.
Deep Tissue or Swedish?
When considering whether to book a Swedish or deep tissue massage, it is best to consider the intention of the massage. If what is desired of the massage is therapeutic in a nature, such as pain relief or rehabilitation of a particular area of the body, then deep tissue might be a better choice. If the intention is to get a general full body massage with deep pressure for the purposes of relaxation, a Swedish massage might then be the better option as long as the client’s desire for deep pressure is expressed.
Does a deep tissue massage hurt?
Some clients may experience uncomfortable sensations during a deep tissue massage, or soreness after a deep tissue massage, though this is certainly not the case for everyone or a result of every deep tissue technique.
Sensations of pain cause physical and protective responses in the body, and can cause muscles to tense. This is, of course, antithetical to the purpose of a massage, and can prevent therapist from going in to deeper muscle groups. Therapist use slow deep strokes and melting to get around this protective neurological response, and it is very possible for the therapist to avoid client discomfort all together.
That being said, there are highly effective techniques that may involve some level of client discomfort, although that discomfort is usually brief. The therapist may instruct the client on breathing techniques to help the client through any periods of heightened sensation, and the client is highly encouraged to speak up if discomfort slips into outright pain.
What are the benefits of deep tissue massage?
Deep tissue massage is a wonderful compliment to other treatments and therapies, and boasts a number of benefits in its own right. Deep tissue massage therapy has been proven to relieve chronic pain caused by injury or imbalance, to help ease lower back pain, to relieve symptoms of arthritis, to help with the recovery after soft tissue injury, to increase range of motion in joints, and to reduce blood pressure and decrease heart rate.
What are the contraindications for deep tissue massage?
Deep tissue massage may not be appropriate immediately after an injury or while tissue is red, hot, swollen, or inflamed. Deep tissue massage may not be appropriate if the client is in later stages of pregnancy, has a history of blood clots or blood clotting disorders, has cancer and is undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, has osteoporosis, a skin infection, or an open wound. If there is any doubt, it is best to get clearance from a physician before beginning deep tissue massage therapy.
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