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Deep Tissue Massage : Everything you need to know



Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that concentrates on the deeper layers of muscle tissue. The purpose of this technique is to lengthen, relax and release strain patterns within the muscles so that the posture of the body can realign itself. Therapists use a combination of slow strokes and deep pressure by fingers, hands and forearms on tight places either following or going across the fibres of the muscles. As opposed to other massage techniques, deep tissue massage concentrates on the certain parts of the body that are strained; therefore, it is not unusual to have a session that concentrates fully on the lower back, neck or shoulder.

While some of the strokes may feel the same as those used in Swedish massage therapy, deep tissue massage isn't the same as having a regular massage with deep pressure.

It's used to break up scar tissue and physically break down muscle "knots" or adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) that can disrupt circulation and cause pain, limited range of motion, and inflammation.

At the beginning of the massage, lighter pressure is generally applied to warm up and prep the muscles. Specific techniques are then applied. The most common techniques include:

Stripping: Deep, gliding pressure along the length of the muscle fibers using the elbow, forearm, knuckles, and thumbs

Friction: Pressure applied across the grain of a muscle to release adhesions and realign tissue fibers


Who can benefit from deep tissue massage?

There are a wide range of ailments that can be remedied through deep tissue massage, including quite a few problems originating in the back. Lower back pain is increasingly common . This can be a result of pulling a muscle from lifting something too heavy or simply because of bad posture. Now that we are leading more sedentary lives, with many of us working for hours in front of computers, our posture is suffering, causing back pain. Even those of us that work physical jobs can suffer from repetitive stress injuries that can be relieved through deep tissue massage. Stress is also an important factor in back and neck pain, as it can cause us to tense our muscles for long periods of time, eventually causing pain. When muscles are contracted for long periods of time, they can develop ‘trigger points,’ where muscle fibers have bunched up, restricting both muscle function and circulation.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, 34,000 people ranked deep tissue massage more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, exercise, prescription medications, chiropractic, acupuncture, diet, glucosamine, and over-the-counter drugs.

Deep tissue massage also received a top ranking for fibromyalgia pain. People often notice an improved range of motion immediately after a deep tissue massage.


Will deep tissue bodywork  hurt?

At certain points during the massage, you may feel some discomfort or even some pain as the massage therapist works on areas where there are adhesions or scar tissue.

You should always tell your massage therapist if you feel pain during the massage. The therapist can adjust the technique or further prep the tissues if the superficial muscles are tense.

Pain isn't necessarily good, and it's not necessarily a sign that the massage is working. In fact, your body may tense up in response to pain, making it harder for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.


How does deep tissue massage help?

When muscles are strained or stressed, they block the circulation of oxygen and nutrients from flowing through the muscle. This can lead to inflammation that can build up toxins in the muscle tissue. By placing pressure on these muscles with slow strokes, the muscles can be loosened or relaxed, releasing the build up of toxins and allowing oxygen and nutrients to circulate again. Not only is this technique therapeutic, but it can be corrective in those clients that have suffered from muscle tension for a long time.


How to Prepare for a Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage varies  from a Swedish or sports massage. While the goal of a Swedish massage is to use long strokes to relax you, a deep tissue massage uses forceful, deep strokes in order to work deeper muscles and connective tissues. The goal of a deep tissue massage is to target deep muscles and break up knots, improve muscle positions and release built-up toxins.

Prepare relevant health information for the therapist. A deep tissue massage can be somewhat uncomfortable. If you have any pain in your body or injuries, this is information the therapist will need to know. Preparing the information ahead of time will ensure you do not forget anything when you are at your appointment. You may also choose to include information pertaining to any allergies you have or preferences on aromatherapy scents

Drink water. Deep tissue massages are designed to break up knots and adjust your muscles. They also release toxins from the muscles, which might make you feel fatigued or nauseated after a massage. Staying well hydrated by drinking water before and after the massage will help alleviate these symptoms.

Take a warm shower before the massage to loosen up your muscles and help put you in a relaxed state. A fresh, clean body will also make the experience more pleasant for your massage therapist.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing to the massage appointment. This will help you continue to feel relaxed and make the process of undressing easier. You may also feel sore or tender following the massage, so loose clothing will be more comfortable to wear


What to expect during deep tissue massage

Most massage therapists will take the time during the first appointment to learn the client’s history and current problems. The therapist should be told if the client is pregnant, taking medications, has joint problems or skin allergies, or has a history of respiratory or heart problems. Clients should avoid eating large meals or drinking alcohol before a session. Deep tissue massage is applied directly through the skin and body oil is usually applied. Clients may experience some discomfort when the technique is applied in certain areas, but this should subside after the session. If the pain is too much to bear, clients should tell their therapist without hesitation. Because toxins are released into the body, clients should drink plenty of water after a session to help flush the toxins from the body.

Massage therapists may use fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows, and forearms during a deep tissue massage. You may be asked to breathe deeply as the massage therapist works on tense areas.

After the massage, you may feel some stiffness or soreness, but it should subside within a day or so. Be sure to contact your massage therapist if you have concerns or if you feel pain after having a massage.

Drinking water after the massage may help to flush the metabolic waste from the tissues.


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