When I was new to receiving massage I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. I find this is the case for a lot of people. One time I scheduled a Deep Tissue massage. I had left a message with the therapist and she called back while I was out. When I returned my co-worker informed me that the therapist had called back to confirm my Deep Tissue massage. My co-worker said those words like they were magic, like “I don’t know what in the world a Deep Tissue massage is, but it sounds good!”
The goal of Deep Tissue Massage is to penetrate to deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. When I give a Deep Tissue massage, I use a creme instead of an oil or gel so that I’m gliding over skin less and sinking down into the tissue more. I use stretches, engage tendons at their origins and insertions, and endeavor to differentiate tissues that have become adhered to each other. More often than not I combine Deep Tissue with Swedish/circulatory massage to first loosen up the muscles I’m going to work more in depth on. I like to think strategically about how the strain in one area can be caused by tightness or weakness in another area. Because of this I sometimes work where the pain isn’t, in order to relieve pain where it’s felt. This is an excellent massage choice for working on those knots and areas of chronic tension that hinder your free range of motion.
Deep Tissue massage is by necessity slower. It takes longer to sink in deeper. I rarely do Deep Tissue on the whole body. It would take 3 hours and you’d feel as if you’d been run over by a truck. I usually do Deep Tissue on 1 or 2 regions, for example the back and legs. The rest of the body might not need that deep, penetrating specificity. Heat and ice combine well with Deep Tissue massage. I might heat an area first to loosen up the muscle and connective tissue. This allows the body to receive the depth better. I might ice an area after deep work to decrease any inflammation caused by the work itself. This can decrease soreness the client may feel later.
In Deep Tissue massage the therapist may use her hands, knuckles, forearms, elbows, and even feet to achieve the desired depth. But equally important is patience, working with the clients breath, and attention to the body’s willingness to receive the work. Author Art Riggs in his book Deep Tissue Massage (North Atlantic Books 2002) emphasizes working with not on the person’s muscle tissue. He provides this definition.
A simple definition might be: the understanding of the layers of the body, and the ability to work with tissue in these layers to relax, lengthen, and release holding patterns in the most effective and energy efficient way possible. (p. 3)
In Deep Tissue Massage there is less emphasis on pleasure as the primary goal and more emphasis on altering structure and muscle restrictions. This is not to say that the work is not pleasurable. Most clients, once they are accustomed to the benefits of deep tissue work, prefer the increase degree of relaxation, the alleviation of pain, and the longer lasting benefits. (p. 3)
If you’ve ever been intrigued with what a Deep Tissue massage would feel like, let me know. If you’ve ever felt beat up by a Deep Tissue massage, my guess is that the therapist was working too hard to fit some spa menu definition of Deep Tissue massage and wasn’t paying enough attention to your particular body’s needs. Perhaps you’d like to give it another try. Let me know; I’m here to help.