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Healing Melody Therapeutic Massage

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep Tissue and Deep Pressure

I really can’t discuss Deep Tissue Massage without bringing up Deep pressure massage as well. The whole Deep Tissue vs. Deep Pressure massage question has been a bit of a bugaboo for me as a therapist. Most clients (and it seems some therapists) don’t really understand the difference. The term “Deep Tissue Massage’ is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that most believe it is achieved by applying a lot of hard, deep pressure, and that it is going to hurt . . . a lot!  The term actually has nothing to do with the amount of pressure that is applied, but about working the deeper layers of muscle and fascia in order to correct dysfunctions and start the healing process.

No Pain No Gain?

In my practice I’ve encountered many people wanting deep tissue work. Sometimes they are athletic, sometimes not, but they all seem to have the “No Pain, No Gain” mindset, and many of them WANT it to feel painful.  In fact, I think they might feel cheated if it is not, even if their issue is resolved when they leave.  I really don’t subscribe to that credo myself, so when someone comes to see me requesting deep tissue massage I try to educate them on the difference between deep tissue, and deep pressure. This is so I know exactly why they think they want it.  It’s never my goal to make it painful just to please a client, but that being said, I will increase the pressure if I can to satisfy the client’s needs. The real issue is that most client’s like to feel that something is being accomplished, and most like a firmer touch. I know when I get a massage myself; I like a nice medium/firm pressure throughout and deep tissue work where necessary. Nothing is more dissatisfying than someone just rubbing lotion on you with no therapeutic intent, so I totally get why clients think they want deep tissue.

In reality, a deep tissue massage should be done fairly slowly, working through the muscle tissues and giving extra attention to the “knots” and trigger points found along the way. This work should always be done after you have initially warmed up the tissues by doing more broad superficial strokes. Many therapists make the mistake of going right in and trying to ‘force the (t)issue’. You should really never go any deeper into a muscle than that muscle will allow.  I find you get much better results by allowing the tissue to respond and release under a slower, more focused approach as opposed to muscling it with elbows and fists. Muscles have a tendency to ‘push back’ against a lot of pressure with increased resistance, so I wouldn’t really accomplishing anything with that type of treatment and you will probably experience bruising and a lot of soreness the following day. 


Basis of Deep Tissue Massage

Deep Tissue has it’s basis in classic Swedish moves, but some of the techniques used in a deep tissue massage, such as; deeper kneading, stripping, cross fiber friction, skin stretching or skin rolling (myofacial release) and sustained compression will feel different than just deep broad pressure. These are much more focused techniques and are not meant to be used over your entire “full body session’, at most, one or two areas at a time is doable. However, I can easily apply deep pressure throughout an entire session; all it takes is lowering my table and using gravity to lean in usually with forearms to apply the strokes.  So in a way you can have both, deep broad strokes to warm up the tissues and more focused deep tissue techniques to your problem areas. Working this way will pretty much guarantee a comfortable, productive massage.

What to Expect from Deep Tissue Massage

That being said, it probably won’t be entirely pain free. Working the trigger points and already sore, tight areas tends to be a little uncomfortable which is usually described as a ‘hurt so good’ feeling.  It shouldn’t be so unbearable that you can’t relax, or breathe through it though. On a pain scale of 1 to 10 it should be at about 6-7, which is what is called a therapeutic depth.  However, everyone has a different tolerance level, so communication on your part and attentiveness on mine is key during a deep tissue massage, if it’s too much just tell me to back off and everyone will be happy.

Depending on the work that is done, you may also experience some next day soreness, similar to what you might feel after a workout. It shouldn’t be debilitating or last more than a day or two. It’s a good practice after a deep tissue session to hydrate, apply ice or heat for 10- 15 minutes as needed and take an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen if you’re so inclined. This will decrease any post massage discomfort.

Whether it’s deep pressure or deep tissue or just good old Swedish, receiving massage on a regular basis will always be a good thing for your body!