Deep Tissue Massage

Deep Tissue Massage

A massage therapist will use deep tissue massage to get down to layers where trigger points and other problems may be encountered that gentler massage techniques might not reach.

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Many people are aware that Swedish massage and other similar techniques generally seek to stimulate primarily at the surface.   Their goal is to relax muscles that are readily accessible.  Deep tissue massage, on the other hand, tries to go further. 

A massage therapist will use deep tissue massage to get down to layers where trigger points (muscle knots - localized pain areas) and other problems may be encountered that gentler massage techniques might not reach.

In order to accomplish these goals, the practitioner has several different massage technique options.

Classic movements such as effleurage (a gliding, long-stroke movement using the flat surface of the hand) move along muscles, while deep tissue massage instead moves across the muscle fibers, but still using slow strokes.   The major difference lies in the fact that deep tissue bodywork has the goal of lengthening the muscle fibers, stretching them out in order to restore a natuaral balance.

In order to achieve lengthening, the massage therapist looks for fibers which are already shortened due to various factors.

Chronic tension, for example, which for many occurs in the neck and shoulders is often a culprit in today's society.  Frequent computer users, and that encompasses a wide group today, are particularly prone to this sort of shortening of the muscles.  They may also experience low back tightness as a result of improper posture, a non-ergonomic chair or work-related stress.   

In fact, almost any sort of stress can be a culprit as well.

Deep tissue massage techniques focus on just such areas as these.  To do so properly, however, the therapist employs sharper tools (finger tips, elbows, knuckles) over a smaller area, producing higher pressure than the typical Swedish massage therapist.  As a result, it is vital for the practitioner to obtain regular, prompted client feedback.  The therapist cannot simply wait for them to jump.

Some clients will actually request more pressure, while others will need a lighter touch.  For some, however, the technique simply won't be appropriate at all.

The ultimate goal is to realign deep layers of muscle and connective tissue that have become tensed, formed knots or have in some way trapped fluids.  Deep tissue techniques are designed to improve blood flow while undoing these knots, all of which helps remove toxins and replenish nutrients more efficiently.

One common cause of those sorts of conditions is quite simply a physical injury of some kind.

As a result of some sort of trauma, a muscle can tense up against itself, in an attempt to protect against further harm.  This is similar to the person who pulls his head down and raises his shoulders when attacked.  This is a normal defensive action, but muscles do not always immediately return to their normal position, and a constrant stress can create a semi-permanent state of tension.   Adhesions sometimes result in these circumstances, hindering circulation, creating pain and limiting movement.

Undoing that accumulated tension can help create a more healthful condition overall.

Using direct, deep pressure across the fascia; which is a thick, fibrous layer of connective tissue covering muscles and joints, can also help produce the desired state.  After fascia work, it's sometimes possible that a patient may experience some discomfort.  It's particulary important to follow up on such complaints to ensure that no actual injury has occurred from the therapy.

As we have seen the more classic massage therapy techniques are used to relax the client, but deep tissue massage work is more focused on treating conditions such as chronic pain, limited mobility, muscle spasms and similar issues.  The therapist, as always, has a responsibility to exercise due care to improve the condition, not worsen it.

As with many massage techniques, the theories underlying deep tissue massage can be dubious, or at least unproven except anecdotally.  However, there is a body of valid research that seems  to give the technique some support.  Deep tissue massage has been widely reported to help relieve fibromyalgia pain and is a very common accompaniment to various treatments for osteoarthritis.

Those who experience these conditions, though, should definitely first seek the advice of a physician who may or may not recommend deep tissue massage as part of an overall treatment program.

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Deep Tissue Massage
Page Updated 8:19 AM Saturday 12/21/2013