|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.
therapist will use deep tissue massage to get down to layers
points (muscle knots - localized pain areas) and other
problems may be encountered that gentler massage techniques might not
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
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
Undoing that accumulated tension can help create a more healthful
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
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
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
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.