Whether you’re an athlete with a daily high demand placed on your body or recovering from an injury or illness, deep tissue massage likely has some benefits to offer you. Massages have been utilized for thousands of years throughout the world to lower both physical and psychological stress. And today, research continues to show that whether used alone or in conjunction with other treatments, massage therapy is an effective way to help treat common conditions like arthritis, anxiety and chronic lower back pain.
If you’ve ever received a massage that was done in a Swedish fashion — involving long strokes that moved along the lines of muscles — a deep tissue massage will probably feel like a bit of a different experience.
Deep tissue massages are usually “cross-grain,” moving against the muscles to relieve aches or pains rather than moving with them. This can sometimes feel a bit more painful as a result compared to standard “relaxation massages.” However, the pressure involved in deep massages is actually a good thing. It provides many of the benefits that this type of therapeutic massage has to offer. Deep tissue massages also tend to be slower-paced and longer than many other massages, ideally about 1.5 hours long, which gives bodily tissue enough time to warm up and then relax.
The primary goal of deep tissue massage is to reduce pain and discomfort, while improving the body’s ability to heal itself. Deep tissue massages are not only relaxing — they also help “lengthen and release muscles” that frequently feel tense and get stuck in uncomfortable holding patterns. Let’s explore what, exactly, deep tissue massage is and all the ways it can benefit your body and mind.
Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer.
A person receiving a deep tissue massage usually lays on the stomach or back in one position, while deep pressure is applied to targeted areas of the body by a trained massage therapist. The massage is beneficial mostly because it helps stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension, while at the same time lowering psychological stress and releasing “happy hormones” like serotonin and oxytocin.
Most deep tissue massages normally focus on major muscle groups — such as the neck or lower back — along with joints and tendons that are susceptible to straining or injuries. Certain areas of the body that tend to tense up in times of stress, including the shoulders, neck and hips, can often benefit the most from this type of deep manipulation. Many people consider “sports massages” to be a form of deep tissue massage, which involves physical treatment primarily to neuromusculoskeletal systems to treat pain and disability, improve muscle recovery and joint mobilization, and prevent injuries.
Manipulative approaches to naturally treating pain and other health problems have been utilized for over 3,000 years, dating back to Ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. Pressure massages were used to improve “Qi” (life force or energy), detox the body and promote better liver function — which today can be explained through the process of activating the lymphatic system.
Experts believe that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use very firm, deep pressure to treat chronic pain. In the West, deep tissue massage started to gain attention during the mid-19th century, starting in Canada and making its way throughout the U.S.
Dr. Josh Axe has written a thorough post on his blog Food Is Medicine, providing a good layout of the differences and benefits of deep tissue massages.
Portions of this blog post were taken from the content of Dr. Josh Axe, who has written a thorough post on his blog Food Is Medicine. Providing a good layout of the differences and benefits of deep tissue massages.