Deep Tissue Massage
What is Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep Tissue Massage refers to massage techniques which engage the deeper muscle fibers of the body rather than just the superficial layers. Many areas of the body have multiple layers of muscle on top of each other. For example, the upper back contains superficial muscles such as the trapezius, then underneath that there are the erector spinae muscles and deeper still are the transverse spinalis muscles. Deep tissue techniques are designed to penetrate through the other muscles to access the deepest layers. Due to the depth of the muscles that are being worked, the massage generally needs to be performed much slower than the more superficial modalities. Working fast and deep can cause too much pain and discomfort during the treatment.
Why would I get a Deep Tissue Massage?
There are many reasons why a person may opt to receive a deep tissue massage. Some people have a higher pain threshold than others and simply need a deeper massage to experience the benefits that they desire. Other people may not enjoy the discomfort of a deep tissue massage but may want to target the deeper muscles in order to help balance the posture of their body. If someone has been having massages regularly for some time, then they may need deeper work as they have already resolved a lot of the more superficial tension from their previous treatments. In this situation, the person may be quite familiar with massage and therefor be ready to experience some discomfort during a treatment in order to get the results they are looking for.
Are there any Contraindications?
Yes, as with any form of massage, there are contraindications (reasons you should not have a massage). You should NOT have a deep tissue massage if you have any of the following conditions:
- Contagious diseases (including the common cold and influenza)
- Are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Have had a recent surgery (within the last 6 months)
- Neuritis (nerve inflammation)
- Infectious skin disease
- Acute inflammation
- Bone and joint injuries
- Open wounds
- Myositis Ossificans
- Deep-vein thrombosis
- Diabetes (seek permission from your GP)
- Muscle and/or Tendon Rapture
Some contraindications only apply to localised areas of your body. You may be able to have a deep tissue massage, but the therapist will need to avoid the area. Local contraindications include:
- Undiagnosed lumps and bumps
- Bruising and abrasions
- Burns including sunburn
- Pain without known cause
- Acute inflammation
- Varicose veins
Is Deep Tissue Massage Always Painful?
No, deep tissue massage is not always painful. Some people really enjoy deep body work. For some though, there will be a certain amount of discomfort which is experienced during the treatment. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between pain and this kind of discomfort. As your Massage Therapist is not psychic, it is crucial for you to communicate with them if you are experiencing pain that becomes intolerable. The therapist will probably check in with you throughout the treatment, but they cannot predict the changes you will experience as they move along your body. Some areas may elicit pain or intense discomfort at a slight tough whilst other areas may be worked into with a lot of force without any pain at all. Try not to feel inhibited in speaking with your therapist about what you are experiencing. They will be totally open to adapting the treatment to accommodate your wishes. Breathing deeply helps many people to consciously let go of tension they are carrying. This can also help with avoiding the tendency to tense up in reaction to the pressure that is being applied.
What Issues and Injuries is Deep Tissue helpful for?
People have reported benefits from Deep Tissue Massage for conditions such as sciatica, sports injuries, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia and plantar fasciitis however there has not been a huge amount of funding to conduct high quality studies to scientifically validate the effects of these treatments. Recently a review of complementary and alternative health treatments was conducted in Australia which found moderate quality evidence that Massage can provide similar effects as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications for both acute and chronic low back pain. For this reason, you are still able to claim Remedial Massage on your private health cover as an ‘extra’. Most other alternative treatments were removed from private health insurance due to a lack of good quality evidence. Because there is a lack of formal study, it is up to clients to decide if the treatments are working for them. Massage has been a popular choice to address muscular pain and relieve the daily stresses and tensions that are put on the body for thousands of years and it doesn’t appear that people are going to stop having massages any time soon.
How is Deep Tissue Massage different to Relaxation Massage?
Most relaxation massage is based around the five techniques from Swedish Massage:
- Effleurage - Long, sweeping strokes of a light pressure
- Petrissage - A kneading motion
- Friction - Deeper circular strokes
- Tapotement - Percussive and rhythmic movement
- Vibration - Shaking or jostling
In contrast, Deep Tissue focuses on stripping which is a deep slow stroke. Stripping can be done with fingers and palms but for deeper work usually the knuckles, forearm and elbow will be used. Swedish or Relaxation massage is lighter and as such can be performed faster whilst Deep Tissue Massage is long, slow and deep. Some more modern approaches to deep tissue may analyse posture in relation to specific ‘myofascial meridians’ and apply the deep slow strokes along an entire meridian. This approach is more commonly referred to as Myofascial Release. During a relaxation massage you are likely to become very relaxed and may even fall asleep but during a deep tissue massage you are unlikely to fall into this state due to the intensity of the treatment.
Are there any Side Effects?
Depending on the intensity and duration of the Massage you may experience various effects for up to a week after your treatment however most of the effects will usually be experienced within 48 hours of the treatment. The most common symptom is a soreness or tenderness in the areas that received the heaviest treatment. This pain is usually easy to identify as it feels different to the muscular pain that you were experiencing prior to having your treatment. This soreness will naturally fade within a few days so if your pain persists or worsens it is recommended that you consult with your General Practitioner or Physiotherapist. It’s important to wait at least a few days to assess the effectiveness of the treatment as the initial soreness convinces some people that the massage has done some damage. This is unlikely to be the case so please be patient before you judge the outcome of your Deep Tissue session. You could also feel very relaxed, tired or fatigued after a treatment. This is normal and will usually be gone by the next morning.
How to Find a Massage Therapist
In Australia, the highest level of certified massage training is a ‘Diploma of Remedial Massage’. This training usually takes between one year and 18 months to complete and the students must study anatomy, physiology and pathology. In addition, they must also complete a minimum number of student clinic hours during which they provide massage treatments to real clients under the supervision of qualified trainers and assessors. Remedial Massage Therapists usually learn several modalities during their training such as Swedish Massage, Trigger Point, Myofascial Release, Sports Massage, Manual Lymph Drainage and Deep Tissue. When choosing a therapist, make sure they have a Diploma of Remedial Massage and as much experience as possible. You may also ask your trusted health professionals for a referral, consult your family and friends for a recommendation or browse online reviews. Sometimes it takes a while to find a therapist that you work well with but don’t give up – there is a therapist out there that will be perfect for you.