The Truth About Deep Tissue Massage

Most people believe deep tissue massage must hurt to work. But the saying, “No pain, no gain,” doesn’t always apply.

In fact, many people fall into a deeper state of relaxation when they receive a deep tissue massage, which may be the reason they get the relaxation therapy.

So, what is a deep tissue massage? It’s the manipulation of the deeper layers of muscle and soft tissues in the body. The massage therapist uses warm oils and direct pressure to relax the top layer of muscle in order to reach deeper layers of the muscle tissue.

Many people get a deep tissue massage to help relieve chronic aches and pain. Some feel the benefits of a deep tissue massage in minimizing lower back pain, releasing tension in a stiff neck, sore shoulders, upper back, or loosening tight muscles in their arms and legs.

A massage therapist may not be able to penetrate the deep layers of muscle and soft tissue in the first session. Depending on the situation, the therapist may need to modify the massage to keep the client comfortable so they do not subconsciously resist the work.

Deep tissue massage pain

Muscles have a natural reflex to resist pain. When a muscle thinks it’s about to be injured, this reflex is triggered. When too much pressure is applied during a massage, the muscle or group of muscles will naturally resist force by tightening further. This is the opposite effect of what a massage is all about. Effective massages relax and release areas of tension.

Most people will naturally try to avoid painful situations. For example, many people avoid going to the dentist because they associate dental exams with pain. You should not feel that way when you receive a massage. Everyone has a different level of comfort and tolerance for pain and you should not tolerant more pain than you can reasonably bear.

When the body is experiencing pain, it reacts with tension. During a deep tissue massage, discomfort is normal and will be felt if there are inconsistencies within the tissues. Discomfort is described as a “good hurt”, the kind that feels good at the same time. On the other hand, pain can be described as being uncomfortable and not tolerated well by the body.

Massage therapists should work within the client’s comfort level and pain tolerance at all times. If a person cannot handle a high amount of pressure, it may take several more treatments to achieve the same results as someone with a higher threshold for pain. Results will occur, but at a slower rate.

Massage techniques

There are many techniques or modalities that fall under the category of deep tissue work. Neuromuscular therapy (NMT) and myofascial release are just two that can be described as advanced deep tissue techniques.

NMT focuses on creating a balance between the central nervous system (comprised of the brain, spine, and nerves) and the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints of the body through specific methods.

Myofascial release works on stretching and lengthening the connective tissue coverings called fascia that surround every part of our internal structure, including our bones, muscles, and organs. Tight fascia can cause pain and restrict joint mobility.

There are times when deep pressure is necessary and can be painful, but this happens when there is scar tissue. Scar tissue or adhesions are thick areas of bound connective tissue created during the healing process from an injury or some form of surgery. Scar tissue work requires deep pressure in order to break up the dense nature of this tissue.

Not everyone should receive a deep tissue massage. Some people simply enjoy the sensation of deeper pressure to their muscles and others prefer a more gentle touch. Someone who has never experienced a massage before may not want to request a deep tissue massage. It is the responsibility of the massage therapist to determine if a deep tissue massage is necessary by way of a thorough health history and evaluation. A massage is only effective when the person on the table is comfortable and relaxed.

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