The popularity of massage has exploded as people from all walks of life realize its tremendous benefits. In addition to promoting relaxation and easing tight muscles, massage also helps treat injury and illness. When it comes to thinking about massage for pain reduction and injury recovery, many people turn to deep tissue massage, a technique that speeds healing and provides near-instant relief. Milford, Massachusetts-based MacMed Spa specializes in deep tissue and many other massage specialties.
What Is Deep Tissue Massage?
Deep tissue massage treats musculoskeletal pain and injury by working the deepest layers of tissue. As the name implies, the technique requires the massage therapist to exert higher pressure to reach deeper embedded tissue. Many people like this method because it works muscles, tendons and joints that do not get adequate attention with other types of massages.
Other people find deep tissue massages uncomfortable or even painful. Often, massage therapists can adjust the pressure to make the process comfortable even for clients who have difficulty tolerating deep tissue manipulation. Deep tissue techniques provide great relief for strains and sports injuries. These types of problems damage tissue deep underneath the afflicted area.
By manipulating the injured tissue, massage therapists promote healing. Blood flow to the area increases, which allows vital healing nutrients to flow into the injured area. In addition, deep tissue helps the affected regions regain flexibility. Because of the increased range of motion, clients are better able to use the muscles in the trouble area and return to normal activity faster.
How It’s Done
Massage therapists perform deep tissue techniques by applying slow, sustained pressure. They use deep strokes that reach inner layers of muscle and connective tissue. This type of massage helps reduce inflammation, which can be a major source of discomfort and a risk factor for further injury.
Deep tissue often works very well for people suffering from a lack of flexibility. They may have knots in their backs and other areas of the body which deep tissue manipulation loosens and unwinds. Most clients feel more relaxed, stronger and flexible after a deep tissue treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage?
Proponents of deep tissue techniques extol their physical and psychological benefits. Whereas many other massage techniques concentrate on relaxation, deep tissue focuses on improving muscle pain and increasing flexibility.
Most deep tissue enthusiasts report that the technique also helps them relax physically and mentally. In fact, a 2019 study determined that deep tissue manipulation reduced chronic lower back pain more significantly than nonsteroidal drugs, such as ibuprofen.
Common conditions treated with deep tissue techniques include the following:
- Sports injuries
- Plantar fasciitis
- High blood pressure
- Tennis elbow
How Does It Compare to Swedish Massage?
Both deep tissue and Swedish massage techniques use similar strokes, but they differ greatly in the amount of pressure the massage therapist applies.
The techniques diverge in their goals. Swedish massage therapists seek to relax their clients and reduce muscle tension from everyday stress and activity. For example, an office worker who has put in too many hours may have back pain from sitting at the computer and be under too much stress. A Swedish massage would be a great way to ease the pain in the back muscles while helping the worker de-stress, hopefully reducing blood pressure and increasing feelings of optimism.
Deep tissue, on the other hand, seeks to treat chronic pain and/or sports-related injuries. For example, if that same office worker developed sciatica after playing too many pick-up basketball games on the weekend, deep tissue work would help that injury heal faster.
Swedish and deep tissue also differ in the amount of pressure the massage therapist applies. Swedish massages are intended to be gentle, while deep tissue requires the massage therapist to dig deep into the muscles and connective tissues. In both techniques, massage therapists use their palms and fingers to exercise the tissues; however, deep tissue therapists also use elbows and forearms to apply heavy pressure to knotted, tight and injured areas that need increased viscosity and range of motion.
The two techniques also focus on different areas. Swedish massage targets outer layers that hold a great deal of tension, including the neck, shoulders and back. On the other hand, deep tissue targets the inner muscular layers of all parts of the body.
What to Expect When Receiving a Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massages work much the same as other massage techniques. The person receiving the massage lies down on the table, and the area needing work is exposed. The massage therapist will start with some easy strokes to warm up the tissue. At this point, the massage may feel much like a Swedish massage.
Once the warm-up is complete, the therapist will target painful areas and work to break up scar tissue. The techniques physically break down muscle knots formed by rigid tissue. Common techniques include stripping and friction. Stripping involves applying force along the length of the muscles, often using the elbow, forearm, knuckles and thumbs. Friction is a highly effective injury relief technique that involves realigning tissue fibers. The therapist works across the grain of the muscles to release adhesions.
The therapist may ask you to breathe deeply during the massage to promote relaxation. It’s important to advise the therapist on whether the pressure is too hard, soft or feels right. Once the massage is completed, you will probably feel much looser, more relaxed and find any pain has subsided.
What Other Types of Massage Does MacMed Spa Offer?
Deep tissue is just one of many massage techniques available to our clients. Our massage therapists know a wide variety of techniques and can identify the ones that best fit our clients’ needs and goals.
Neuromuscular Therapy Massage
Somewhat the opposite of deep tissue manipulation, neuromuscular therapy massage aims to loosen soft tissue through gentle techniques. It is usually practiced to treat chronic pain involving the muscular or nervous systems.
Unlike Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy massage treats medical conditions rather than providing general relaxation and pain relief from overexertion. This therapy focuses on trigger points to improve circulation, relieve nerve compression, correct posture, improve biomechanics and treat repetitive movement injuries.
Sports massage has become widely popular with professional athletes, serious amateurs and weekend warriors. Athletes recognize the performance enhancing aspects of massage as well as its role in preventing injuries.
Different techniques are utilized for different sports. Most athletes schedule a sports massage before an important event and after strenuous activity to aid in recovery. In addition, sports massage is employed to assist in recovering from injuries, such as muscle strains.
Most people have seen chair massages at one time or another because the chairs are easily transportable, allowing massage therapists to perform them virtually anywhere. Often, companies order in-house chair massages to reward their employees after a difficult project.
With chair massages, the client remains seated and fully clothed. Therapists focus on the neck, shoulders, back, arms and hands. Like Swedish massage, chair massages are great for relieving tense areas and promoting relaxation.
Shiatsu literally translates to forefinger pressure in Japanese. The names arises from the shiatsu method, which focuses on applying pressure to precise points that provide specific benefits. This therapy has been in development since ancient times, when the acupressure points in the body that promote healing were discovered. These points improve the flow of the body’s natural energy, referred to as chi.
Thai massage is very popular because it provides tremendous relief to sore, achy areas, improves blood flow, enhances flexibility and promotes intense relaxation. Thai massage therapists move the client into positions that assist the body in healing and also compress the muscles, mobilize joints and apply acupressure.
Hot Stone Massage
This massage technique is frequently pictured in massage parlor pamphlets because of its popularity and effectiveness. The therapist uses warmed stones on specific acupressure points. The heat penetrates deep into the body, providing healing and full-body relaxation. The stones may be left in place or used as massage tools.
This technique is somewhat new but is gaining in popularity. It uses hand, thumb and finger techniques on the feet.
Specific areas of the feet affect other parts of the body. For example, a reflexology point on the foot may correspond to an area on the back that bothers the client. By stimulating this point, the client gains relief from the symptoms and a feeling of well-being.
Massage helps expectant mothers by reducing stress, decreasing swelling of the extremities and relieving pain in the muscles and joints. Massage therapists use specially designed pillows to help clients find a comfortable position.
25 Reasons to Get a Massage
Regardless of the type of therapy you choose, there are numerous health-related reasons to get massages on a regular basis. The American Massage Therapy Association recommends massage therapy for these 25 specific reasons:
- Stress relief
- Postoperative recovery
- Anxiety management
- Low back pain relief
- Fibromyalgia treatment
- Relief of muscle tension
- Improved athletic performance
- Tension headache relief
- Improved sleep
- Depression treatment
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Osteoarthritis treatment
- Stress management for cancer patient
- Balance improvement, especially in older people
- Relief of rheumatoid arthritis pain
- Improved dementia symptoms
- Promote relaxation
- Decrease blood pressure
- Treat carpal tunnel syndrome
- Relieve neck pain
- Reduce pain from joint replacements
- Increase range of motion
- Treat chronic migraine headaches
- Hospice care comfort
- Relieve of nausea from chemotherapy
Is Deep Tissue Right for You?
Deep tissue massage provides tremendous benefits, especially for those with chronic pain or injury. Though other techniques, such as Swedish massage, provide a great deal of relaxation and help the body recover from day-to-day stresses, if you have an injury or chronic pain, deep tissue provides the most relief.
As beneficial as deep tissue techniques are for many people, they are not for everyone. At MacMed Spa, we’ve found that many clients need stress relief to help their bodies relax. Many other techniques work for these purposes, including Swedish massage, Thai massage and reflexology. At MacMed Spa, we have massage therapists trained in all modalities so we can offer each client exactly what they need. If you are in need of professional massage service for injury recovery or relaxation, come see MacMed Spa in Milford, Massachusetts today.