Deep Tissue Massage
Swedish massage and similar techniques seek to stimulate the surface and relax muscles that are readily accessible. Deep tissue massage tries to go further, to get down to layers where trigger points (muscle knots, localized pain areas) and other problems may reside.
There are a number of specific techniques utilized to accomplish that aim. Classic movements like effleurage (a gliding, long-stroke movement using the flat surface of the hand) move along muscles. Deep tissue massage instead moves across the muscle fibers, but still using slow strokes, in this case deeper. The goal here is to lengthen the muscle fibers, stretch them out to restore natural balance.
But in order to lengthen, the therapist looks for fibers which are already shortened. That can happen from chronic tension, which for many occurs in the neck and shoulders. Frequent computer users and that encompasses a wide group today are particularly prone to this. They may also experience low back tightness as a result of improper posture, a non-ergonomic chair or work-related stress.
Deep tissue massage techniques focus on just such areas. To do so, the therapist employs sharper tools (finger tips, elbows, knuckles) over a smaller area, producing higher pressure. As a result, it’s vital to obtain regular, prompted client feedback. Don’t simply wait for them to jump. Some will actually request more pressure, others will need a lighter touch. For some, the technique simply isn’t appropriate.
The goal is to realign deep layers of muscle and connective tissue that have tensed, formed knots or have trapped fluids. Deep tissue techniques are designed to undo these knots and improve blood flow which helps remove toxins and replenish nutrients more efficiently.
One cause of those conditions is injury. As a result of trauma, a muscle can tense up against itself, as an attempt to protect against further harm. Adhesions sometimes result, hindering circulation, creating pain and limiting movement. Undoing that tension can help create a more healthful condition.
Using direct, deep pressure across the fascia (a thick, fibrous connective tissue covering muscles and joints) can help produce the desired state. After fascia work, it’s possible for a patient to experience some discomfort. It’s important to perform follow up to ensure that no actual injury has occurred from the therapy.
Classic massage therapy is used to relax the client, but deep tissue massage work is more focused on treating chronic pain, limited mobility, muscle spasms and the like. The therapist has a responsibility to exercise due care to improve the condition, not worsen it.
Though, like many massage techniques, theories underlying it can be dubious, there is valid research that gives the technique support. Deep tissue massage has been widely reported to help relieve fibromyalgia pain and is a common accompaniment to treatments for osteoarthritis.
Those who experience these conditions, though, should definitely seek the advice of a physician who may recommend deep tissue massage as part of an overall treatment program.