As its name implies, deep tissue massage is the manual treatment of deep anatomical structures. The work is slow, deep, and very specific – working either parallel with or perpendicular to the targeted muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Among the many benefits of deep tissue massage:
- reduce pain
- improve mobility; increase range of motion (ROM); restore ease of movement
- reduce muscle hypertonicity, tension, and spasm
- reduce scar tissue and other fascial adhesions (which can impair both circulatory and nerve function in addition to creating mechanical restrictions)
- promote circulation (of both blood and lymph)
- reduce ischemia (by releasing hypertoned muscles and reducing fascial adhesions, thereby improving circulation)
I use my fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows, and forearms during deep tissue massage. A classic deep tissue move is slowing running the point of the elbow (olecranon process) down the length of the spine, next to the spinous processes of the vertebrae. This releases both the superficial erector spinae muscles and the deeper transversospinalis muscles.
I will often ask you to breathe into the area I’m working on during a deep tissue session. This both gets you to focus on the affected area and promotes movement that improves the efficacy of the work.
Contrary to a widely held myth, deep tissue massage doesn’t have to hurt to be effective. One of my deep tissue massage teachers said, “If you are specific, you can go deep.” If you have thorough anatomical knowledge – if you know the origin, insertion, and action of each muscle – and understand how muscles and tendons work, then you can work effectively on very deep structures without causing pain. This is how I most often do deep tissue massage.
I no longer believe in the “no pain, no gain” school of massage. All of my work falls safely in my clients’ “comfort zone.”