Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that involves using firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper levels of muscle and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles).
It is used to treat persistent aches and pains as well as constrained areas including a stiff neck and upper back, low back discomfort, leg muscular tightness, and painful shoulders.
Deep tissue massage is typically used to address a specific issue, such as chronic muscular discomfort, injury rehabilitation, and the following conditions:
- Pain in the lower back
- Mobility issues
- Recuperation from injuries (e.g. whiplash, falls)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is one example of a repetitive strain injury.
- Postural issues
- Hamstrings, glutes, IT band, legs, quadriceps, rhomboids, and upper back muscle stress
- Osteoarthritis discomfort
- Sciatica Piriformis syndrome is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve.
- Tennis elbow is a condition that occurs when a
- Neck or upper back pain
Not all of these advantages have been scientifically validated. Consider receiving a sports massage if you want to prevent sports injuries, address sport-specific difficulties, or help with muscle recovery after sports. 5
What You Can Expect
Deep tissue massage techniques are used to physically break down muscular “knots” or adhesions (bands of stiff, hard tissue) that can block circulation and cause discomfort, limited range of motion, and inflammation.
While some strokes may feel similar to those used in Swedish massage therapy, deep tissue massage is not a more powerful version of a Swedish massage.
Lighter pressure is typically used at the start of a deep tissue massage to warm up and prepare the muscles. Then, specific procedures are used. Techniques that are commonly used include:
- Stripping: Using the elbow, forearm, knuckles, and thumbs, deep, gliding pressure is delivered throughout the length of the muscle fibers.
- Friction: When pressure is applied across the grain of a muscle, adhesions are released and tissue fibers are realigned.
During a deep tissue massage, massage therapists may use their fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows, and forearms. As the massage therapist works on stiff regions, you may be advised to take deep breaths.
You may experience some stiffness or soreness after the massage, but it should go away within a day or so. If you have any concerns or experience pain after receiving a massage, please contact your massage therapist.
Drinking water after a massage may aid in the removal of metabolic waste from the tissues.
Do Deep Tissue Massages Inflict Harm?
You may experience some discomfort or even agony during the massage when the massage therapist focuses on regions with adhesions or scar tissue.
Pain isn’t always a good thing, and it’s no guarantee that the massage will be helpful. In fact, in response to pain, your body may stiffen up, making it more difficult for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.
If you experience pain during your massage, always notify your massage therapist. If the superficial muscles are tense, the therapist might alter the treatment or further prepare the tissues.
Precautions and Adverse Reactions
Deep tissue massage may be dangerous for persons who have blood clots (e.g., thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis) because they may become dislodged.
If you have blood clots or are at risk of developing blood clots, you must see your doctor before receiving a deep tissue massage.
If you’ve recently undergone surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, or if you have another medical condition, you should consult your doctor before beginning massage treatment. Some persons with osteoporosis should avoid this form of massage’s deeper pressure.
Massage should not be performed directly on bruises, inflamed or infected skin, skin rashes, unhealed or open wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, brittle bones, or recent fractured areas. Massage may induce bruising and, in rare cases, hematoma (a localized accumulation of blood outside of blood cells), venous thrombosis, and spinal accessory neuropathy.
According to a case report, an 85-year-old man had a lump on the side of his neck that was discovered to be a blood clot (known as external jugular vein thrombus). He’d been getting deep tissue neck massages for a year, and the cause was determined to be local trauma.
If you have any problem, you should first see your primary care provider to find out which type they prescribe. People suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, for example, maybe unable to bear the agony of a deep tissue massage.
If you are pregnant, you should see your doctor before receiving a message. Deep tissue massage (or any forceful pressure) should be avoided during pregnancy1, but your doctor may recommend a pregnancy massage therapist instead.
Bruising may occur as a result of deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage has been linked to venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hemorrhage, and posterior interosseous syndrome in case studies.