Deep Tissue Massage

January 29, 2020 at 10:06 AM

When we think of a massage, most of us think of the oh-so-good feeling when someone lightly rubs your shoulders after a long day at work, providing an instant feeling of relaxation and freedom to relieve you of all your tension and worries.  While this is loosely known as a typical ‘classic’ massage to enhance relaxation, deep tissue massage is in a category of its own. 


What is a Deep Tissue Massage?

In a deep tissue massage, more force and pressure is applied at a slower pace compared to a classic massage, in order to specifically target the deeper muscles and fascia of the body. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that functions to attach, separate and protect all the different muscles of our body, both the big ones we use everyday and the small hidden ones that can sometimes go unnoticed. These deep slow massage strokes allows the therapist to work on realigning any deep muscles and fascia that may have become ‘stuck’ which can cause muscle pain, cramps or discomfort in particular movements we do in our day to day lives. 


By releasing the muscles and fascia back to their preferable position, it allows blood flow to increase to the muscles that were once ‘stuck’. With an increase in blood flow comes an increase in oxygen and nutrients to the injured area to help allow the muscles to move with ease once again. As more oxygen and nutrients come into the area, the increased blood flow also aids in flushing out any waste products from inflammation that had built up and contributed to the pain you were experiencing.


Does it hurt?

Due to the nature of the required pressure needed in a deep tissue massage, it is normal to experience a small amount of discomfort and pain. Although it is no Sunday morning stroll in the park, any soreness felt shouldn’t be any more than what you can personally cope with. You can ensure this through constantly talking to your therapist throughout the massage to let them know when the pressure being applied is too much for you to handle, or vice versa if not enough pressure is being applied. This is important for both your comfort as the client, but also for the effectiveness of the massage therapy. If too much pressure is applied, it can cause the muscle to contract as a protective instinct against the sudden pain that has just been applied to it, which makes it more difficult for the therapist to release and relax the sore muscle. And vice versa, if not enough pressure is applied, the therapy will be ineffective in releasing your ‘stuck’ muscles. 


To help relax the muscles first, the therapist begins with slow, controlled strokes to stimulate the muscles, and to allow them to adapt to the newly applied pressure to them. During these long strokes known as ‘effleurage’, if the therapist finds one of those sore ‘stuck’ areas, they will then go on to perform ‘petrissage’ - a technique used to work at those sore localised areas to release the tension and open up the tissue. This includes movements such as kneading, rolling, wringing and lifting of the soft tissue, all of which work to target that ‘stuck muscle knot’.


When do I know if I should get a Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage is a common and extremely effective therapy treatment used in a wide variety of injuries, conditions and pain experiences including: muscle tension and/or spasms, chronic pain, sports injury recovery, chronic pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, repetitive strain injuries, and for general loss of mobility. 


As the array of appropriate injuries and conditions for deep tissue massage is so extensive, techniques used by the therapist can be altered to work with releasing muscle tension from virtually anywhere in the body from your big toe, all the way to the top of your neck and anywhere in between. 


It is important to note that it is likely your first deep tissue massage (unfortunately) will not be a one-off done and dusted situation. This is because muscle tension that has been built up over a long period of time, or from a period of intense repetitive muscle overload, is going to take its time to relax and realign again, and therefore it may take multiple therapy sessions to achieve this. 


When is a Deep Tissue Massage not such a great idea?

Although beneficial to a wide range of injuries and conditions, there are a few circumstances when a deep tissue massage is not recommended in order to protect you and your health. 


If you have, or are experiencing one of the following, having a deep tissue massage may irritate your condition further, or make your current acute illness worse:

  • Contagious disease (including the flu)
  • Fever
  • Skin diseases (e.g. eczema)
  • Neuritis

If you have any long-term underlying medical conditions, it is recommended to get approval from a medical professional or to talk to your massage therapist about these prior to your first session to discuss the best course of action for you. These include:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases (including hypertension, thrombosis, angina etc.)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Oedema

If you have any of the following, a deep tissue massage can still be performed but the areas affected must be avoided to prevent any damage, or further damage occurring. The therapist will check with you prior to beginning the massage to ensure they are fully informed on your current condition.

  • Varicose Veins
  • Pregnancy
  • Bruising
  • Cuts/ Abrasions/ Burns

Deep Tissue Massage at Auckland Physiotherapy

Here at Auckland Physiotherapy, our massage therapist Kenzy Cooper, is highly experienced with performing deep tissue massage therapy on a diverse range of injuries and conditions. With every client she attends to, Kenzy is passionate to help relieve their discomfort so to ensure they are back moving in the way they like to in their day-to-day life. Along with the massage, Kenzy will happily provide you with lots of advice and tips on what you can do to help prevent and self-manage your own particular pain either going into the future, after sport sessions, or in between massage sessions. 


Give us a call on 09 366 4480, and we’ll happily find you at time to come and see Kenzy at either our Newmarket or Greenlane clinic!


Written by: Georgia White, Physiotherapy Student