Today I want to talk about massage, more so about Deep Tissue massage and what it really is (in my view) and what it is not. One of my definitions of Deep Tissue work is: (from my web site) Deep Tissue: deep tissue work is the specific manipulation of the deeper tissue and structures of the muscle and fascia, also called connective tissue. Deep Tissue manipulation therapy uses many of the same movements and techniques as Swedish massage as well as cross fiber, pin and stretch, active and passive movements with others, and the depth is more intense. It is also a more focused and slow, as it works to release chronic muscle tension or knots (also known as “adhesions.”) Although it is more uncomfortable then Swedish massage, it shouldn’t be painful. The presser used should not exceed a 4 to 6 (the client’s tolerance) and is only performed on one or two parts of the body.
The term “deep tissue” is often misused to identify a massage that is performed with sustained deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is a separate category of massage therapy, used to treat particular muscular-skeletal disorders and complaints and employs a dedicated set of techniques and strokes to achieve a measure of relief. It should not be confused with “deep pressure” massage, which is one that is performed with sustained strong, occasionally intense pressure throughout an entire full-body session, and that is not performed to address a specific complaint. If a practitioner employs deep tissue techniques on the entire body in one session, it would be next to impossible to perform; and will lead to injury or localized muscle and nerve trauma, thereby rendering the session counterproductive. This type of work is done, in no more then 1/4th of the body in a massage session.
Deep Tissue massage is not a type of massage into itself, but a way of doing a massage. Lots of massage modalities work the deeper tissues, Orthopedic Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Neuromuscular Massage, Rolfing and others all fall into the category of DT work. Some therapist like to put all modalities that work “deep” into the body into the category of DT work even if they do not work the deeper tissues directly like Thai massage, Tui NA, Visceral, Reflexology, Lomi-Lomi, Cranio-Sacral and others. While they do affect the deeper body they do not work the deeper tissues directly and fall into different categories.
Some things to look for when receiving Deep Tissue work.
1) NO PAIN, while DT work can and will be uncomfortable it should not be painful, this can be a very fine line, but when this work is done right, it will be slow to move deep, the tissue will be warmed first and allowed to relax before moving deeper.
2) It’s SLOW. This is not a full body, done in an hour type of work. It can take 15 to 40 min just to work one arm with good DT work, depending on how your muscles react.
3) Not a lot of PRESSURE is used. With DT work the surface muscles are worked and allowed to relax first before going to the next level. When a lot of pressure is used to reach the deeper muscles it can bring on some pain, then your fight or flight response kicks in.
What happens at this point is your nervous system will kick in, your muscles will do 2 things tighten up to protect itself from what is bring on the pain (at this point 99% of therapist just use more pressure) then it will relax to keep damage from accruing. This could be a good thing as booth the therapist and client think “wow, it worked the muscle released”, true it did but 99.999% of the time it is short lived. The muscles “released” to keep damage from happening to it, but after the stimulus is gone, as nothing about the muscle has changed, for the “release” was part of the fight or flight response and not a true change in the muscle, it will tighten back up and most time as the muscle was under a great deal of stress from to much pressure being used, it will tighten up more than it was before the massage work.
Now some people really like deep pressure. After a deep pressure massage they are like, “I just feel so good after it”, true for an hour or four, or a day or two you do. Mosley from the endorphins that were released from the massage. Now if you don’t know endorphins are your happy hormones, they are released when the body is in pain, stress or the like and make you feel better, they kill pain and give you a “high”. But like all “highs” they don’t last and you end up right back where you started (or worse).
So now that you know some about what Deep Tissue work really is (or should be)I would like to add one more thing. Massage takes time to work, over time when your muscles are chronically tight they get to a point where they want to stay that way, they feel that “this is how we are meant to be”. It will take time to retrain them to be relaxed and move like they should. So give it time to work. One massage just might not do it, one massage a month might not. Massages benefits are cumulative over time, the more you get them the better and longer lasting it is.