If you’ve never experienced a deep tissue massage before, you’re in for a treat — or a world of pain according to anonymous internet naysayers. But like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. A deep tissue massage is neither as painful nor as soothing as you’ve heard — after all, the goal of a deep tissue massage is to treat musculoskeletal issues and reduce chronic pain associated with injuries and strains.
What Is a Deep Tissue Massage?
For the uninitiated, a deep tissue massage is the practice of applying sustained pressure to target the inner layers of muscles and other connective tissues. By breaking up scar tissue that may form after injuries, deep tissue massage is great at reducing tension in muscles and elsewhere throughout the body, as well as also increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.
The Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage
While a deep tissue massage may not be the most relaxing massage experience you can have, there are numerous benefits of deep tissue massage. If other massage techniques are about relaxation and calm, a deep tissue massage is intended to treat muscle pain and reduce stiffness in the body, in addition to helping you unwind mentally.
If you’re overstressed and feeling stiff, a deep tissue massage can get you back on track and feeling like yourself again. From old (or new) sports injuries like tennis elbow to fibromyalgia, plantar fasciitis, high blood pressure and sciatica, a deep tissue massage is more about getting your body right than your mind — though many still do manage to relax during their deep tissue massage treatment.
What Happens During a Deep Tissue Massage?
Compared to other types of massage, a deep tissue massage is a more intense massage that specifically targets your muscles, tendons and other connective tissues. While there is some overlap with traditional massage techniques, a deep tissue massage really goes much further than a typical massage.
Before your deep tissue massage can commence, your massage therapist will ask you to point out your problem areas and if you have any persistent injuries. Sometimes a deep tissue massage will focus on just one area of the body, while other times it may be a full body deep tissue massage.
Either way, once a determination has been made on the focus of the massage, it’s time to get down to business. You’ll be asked to lie on your stomach or back under a sheet with the desired massage area exposed. After an initial period of a lighter touch — partly to acclimate you and partly to warm up your muscles — it’s time to start on your problem areas. With deep kneading and other types of pressure, you’re likely to feel some discomfort and maybe even some pain, but if it gets to be too much you can always let your massage therapist know.
Are There Any Side Effects of a Deep Tissue Massage?
While a deep tissue massage may certainly feel uncomfortable or even painful at times, it shouldn’t actually harm you. It’s common to feel some soreness after a deep tissue massage, but that’s easily addressed with a heating pad or a cold pack.
That said, if you have a history of blood clots, are taking blood thinners, have a bleeding disorder or you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, you may want to avoid getting a deep tissue massage. Any open wounds or infections are also reasons to put off that massage. Furthermore, those with osteoporosis should also avoid a deep tissue massage because the pressure used could cause a fracture.