Deep tissue massage is a specific type of massage therapy that concentrates on the deep layers of muscle and fascia in the body.
Deep tissue massage usually focusses on alleviating certain muscular and skeletal conditions, including tension headaches and poor posture and will often require a series of treatments to provide maximum benefit. Deep tissue massage can help with:
Reducing Chronic Pain: Deep tissue massage is commonly used to release long-term or chronic muscle pain and restriction.
Improving Blood Pressure: Deep tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people's blood pressure fell after a single 45 to 60-minute deep tissue massage.
Breaking up Scar Tissue: Over time, deep tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue. While ultrasound therapy, chiropractic treatments, cold and heat will help the injured area, they will not remove the scar tissue.
Improving Flexibility and Suppleness: By working on muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and joints, regular massage can improve your flexibility and range of motion, keeping your joints more fluid and making them less injury prone.
Stress Relief: For people who suffer from chronic stress deep tissue massage can provide relief. A 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that massage modalities like deep tissue reduce stress hormone levels and heart rate while boosting mood and relaxation.
Key Principles of Deep Tissue Massage
As therapeutic massage works deep within the body a trained therapist will usually do a thorough consultation before the treatment to establish if there are any general or local contra-indications to the massage.
The more vigorous style of deep tissue massage is based on Swedish massage. In this case techniques such as effleurage and kneading comprise the preliminary moves of warming up the client's muscles and relaxing them.
Once circulation is flowing, deeper techniques – using the forearms and elbows, soft fists, supported hands or thumbs and trigger point therapy or myofascial release – can be applied to relieve tension and access deeper muscles.
A deep tissue massage can be performed in 30, 60 or 90 minutes or longer. Stretching and corrective exercises are often given at the end of the treatment, not only to correct posture but also to achieve better muscle balance.
The Stages of a Typical Deep Tissue Massage
Each deep tissue massage will be different and focus on specific areas following the therapist’s initial consultation. The next section describes a typical treatment to give you some idea of what you can expect, but it is important to emphasise that your massage therapist will tailor your massage to your body and your specific needs.
The therapist will first ascertain the clients’ problem by doing a range of movement and other specific tests to determine what is causing it. After agreeing on a treatment plan, the therapist will drape the client and begin the massage. They will usually start by palpitating the back area. After identifying any tight and restricted areas they will add oil and apply effleurage and petrissage to warm and loosen the muscles.
A forearm technique can work into the deeper layers of the back and help to break up muscular tension. Once the superficial and intermediate back muscles have been loosened, the therapist uses an elbow to access the deeper layers. Starting from the lower back, they will massage up to the shoulder blade area, taking care not to move over the spine.
These techniques break up adhesions and fascial restrictions lying deep in the muscles. With supported hands the therapist will massage over the trapezius and shoulder muscles, perhaps using a trigger point technique. Next, the therapist will massage the neck area with a scooping movement to warm up the muscles before positioning the client on his or her side and apply soft fist technique, starting at the shoulders and moving down the neck. This will be repeated on the other side.
With the client lying face up and carefully draped, they will massage one side of the chest with their hand or palm, pulling the arm out as they do this to stretch the muscles. This will be repeated on the other side of the chest before finishing the treatment on the arms or neck.
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