Tuesday, May 18, 2010
What IS Deep Tissue Massage Therapy?
Deep tissue massage therapy is often mistaken by many people for any kind of massage that is performed with hard pressure. Deep tissue massage can utilize hard pressure, but it doesn't have to. With any good massage therapist for any type of manual massage, the amount of pressure should be dictated by the client. Some clients can take harder pressure than others. But harder pressure can also be utilized during a relaxation massage--it just depends on what the client wants.
Relaxation (or Swedish) massage and deep tissue massage are two completely different styles. When we massage therapists refer to "deep tissue," we're talking about affecting the deeper layers of muscle and fascia. True deep tissue massage includes two styles: Myofascial therapy and Neuromuscular massage therapy.
Myofascial therapy loosens the bonds between the fascia and the muscles to increase range of motion, decrease tissue adhesions and loosen scar tissues that may have formed. It also increases the oxygen and nutrient supply to muscular and fascial tissues to improve muscular health.
Neuromuscular therapy employs trigger point therapy. It works with deeper layers of muscle to deactivate points of pain which refer pain around or away from the knots. These points of pain are known as trigger points. Trigger points can cause pain because they are areas in the muscle tissue that are tight and lack proper blood supply. Referred pain happens because the tightness in the muscle sends signals along the nerve path. Nerves travel along, around or next to muscles, which is why you can feel pain in areas that are distant to the tight area. The muscle may also compress the nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling and/or other sensations other regions of the body along the path of the nerves.
Deep tissue massage therapy is intended to work out these knots and increase circulation, giving more oxygen and nutrients via more blood to the area, thereby decreasing pain and possibly compression of the nerves.
Be aware that deep tissue massage therapy can sometimes be somewhat uncomfortable and somewhat intense. However, it is not intended to cause pain--as in when you react by saying "Ouch!" If it hurts too much that your body seizes up and you jump, then the massage therapist should back off. If it's uncomfortable but bearable, try taking slow and very deep breaths--this will usually help you through it until the massage therapist moves on to a different area. If it's too uncomfortable to bear, don't be afraid to speak up! Communication between you and your massage therapist is extremely important. If you don't say anything, how can they know they're hurting you?
It should also be mentioned that with deep tissue massage therapy, you may sometimes feel bruised. This is normal! Because it's deep tissue work, some of the blood vessels and capillaries in the skin may be ruptured. It's ok to have a few bruises, especially if you really need the work done. Also, some people bruise more easily than others, especially if they are taking blood thinners. But again, if you experience too much pain that you can't breathe through it, you should tell your therapist to use less pressure.
A good massage therapist who performs deep tissue massage therapy should have sufficient training in both Myofascial massage as well as Neuromuscular massage therapies. If you're not sure whether your massage therapist is trained in deep tissue massage therapy, ask them.
I am a nationally-certified massage therapist who specializes in performing deep tissue massage therapy in Ann Arbor, MI. To find out more about me, please visit my Web site at www.amypriormassage.com.