How Deep Tissue Massage Can Help Relieve Pain

How Deep Tissue Massage Can Help Relieve Pain

A deep tissue massage offers several pain relief benefits. It can alleviate discomfort in the muscles, improve poor posture, and help rehabilitate sports injuries involving the formation of scar tissue. The technique involves applying sustained pressure that is heavier than other treatments, which allows it to reach deeper tissues.

When the massage begins, take a deep breath and close your eyes. You may feel some discomfort in the beginning, but you will feel better than before once you have rested.

What Does a Deep Tissue Massage Do?

A deep tissue massage offers physical and psychological benefits. Deep tissue massage therapy focuses on treating muscle pain and improving stiffness. Your mental health can improve when you don’t have to put a majority of your daily focus on pain management.

This type of massage is often used to treat a variety of conditions with symptoms resulting in chronic pain and aids in athletic recovery. The massage therapist will slowly apply sustained pressure with their hands, moving them to create deep strokes.

This technique focuses on the inner layers of your muscle tissue and connective tissue to ease pain and helps scar tissue that can form following an injury. The process helps by increasing blood flow, reducing inflammation, and reducing muscle tension.

Clients have taken part in a prospective randomised trial to measure their ability to manage pain after receiving consistent treatment. It shows that a majority of clients reported feeling less pain and felt better overall after the study.

The Benefits of a deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage techniques have been found to reduce pain more effectively than any other massage techniques because of its focus on deep areas of the muscle rather than superficial body regions.

Every massage technique is suited to treating certain conditions and can be combined with other treatment methods. Deep tissue massage has many benefits mentally and physically for people who experience chronic muscle fatigue and pain because of its ability to reduce muscle tension.

Can help with Chronic Pain

Deep tissue massages help relieve chronic pain and physical symptoms as a result of a variety of conditions including:

  • Arthritis symptoms
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sports injuries
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis elbow

These slow, deep strokes that target connective tissues help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Some of the other positive benefits include regulating arterial blood pressure and increasing serotonin to keep you feeling great inside and out.

Scar Tissue

The deeper pressure that comes with this treatment helps disperse scar tissue after an injury and reduces discomfort in tense muscles surrounding the area. Lymphatic circulation is improved along with drainage to improve flexibility. A bi-weekly appointment that is between 75-90 minutes long can help you relax and improve your range of motion.

Is Deep Tissue Massage Painful?

Preparing for your first deep tissue massage can be intimidating when you expect it to be painful. Deep pressure is applied across the grain of your muscles to help realign tissue fibres and release tension that causes discomfort.

The treatment involves harder pressure to reach deeper layers, which causes more discomfort than relaxation techniques intended to only reach the superficial layers of your muscles.

What Happens to Your Body after a Deep Tissue Massage?

A deep tissue massage treatment can become part of your physical therapy regimen once you get used to the very firm pressure applied to your muscles to rehabilitate your body.

Call your chiropractor if any of these symptoms persist for more than a few days. Some of the effects of the treatment include:

  • Sore or aching muscles. Muscle soreness in the areas treated is one of the most common side effects. This is normal because the muscles being worked may not have been used often, if ever, prior to the massage. The soreness should be similar to that felt after a good workout.
  • Pain. Pain can also occur during treatment. The deep pressure is new to your muscles, causing your body to hurt more than usual. If the pain persists or worsens, let the chiropractor know and they can assess your treatment plan. Use ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help ease discomfort.
  • Sleepiness. You may feel tired or fatigued. The massage treatment can relax your muscles and relieve stress. This should not last longer than a day.
  • A headache. Headaches are not uncommon because of the awkward head positioning. If the headache lingers once you get home, try to relax and refrain from demanding activities.
  • Nausea. This treatment helps to release toxins from the body. It’s not uncommon to feel like you have an upset stomach for up to a few days. Continue to rest and stay hydrated while avoiding intense activities.

How Does a Deep Tissue Massage Differ from a Remedial Massage?

What separates the different techniques from one another are the intent, pressure, and area of focus. As mentioned, deep tissue is a whole-body treatment intended to get into the inner layers of tight muscles and tissues using firm pressure. The remedial massage focuses on specific areas that require rehabilitation.

A remedial massage therapist will go over the specific areas targeted for pain and discomfort. They’ll focus on those areas to help with injury or dysfunction. The pressure applied during a remedial massage tends to be lighter but can vary depending on what is best for the area.

A sports massage can also fall under this category because of its need to treat a target area. This is often used in conjunction with trigger point therapy to allow your body to relax after more intense pressure is applied to target areas.

Swedish Massage

Deep tissue massage is often compared to Swedish massage. This relaxation massage differs because it uses a kneading approach with light pressure to relax overworked muscles. Relieving pressure in the superficial muscles increases circulation by applying pressure in the direction of the blood flow to the heart.

Prenatal massages are also a full body treatment focusing on long, flowing strokes with only minimal pressure applied to the body. The lighter pressure is safer for the mother and child. This treatment typically takes position on the side to avoid pressure on the back and stomach with the use of padding for support.

A randomised clinical pilot study has been done to compare the effects on lower back pain and disease activity after a therapeutic massage on ankylosing spondylitis patients. While it helps, it does not reach the deep layers the same way as a deep tissue massage.

Can a Deep Tissue Massage be Harmful?

Discomfort and pain can be side effects of deep tissue massage therapy, especially when the therapist works on problem areas. The massage is generally safe but can cause further injury due to the firm pressure. If the pain is too much, you should always let the therapist know.

The risk of any harm is low, but massage therapy is not suitable for everyone. You should consider putting off a deep tissue massage appointment if you are pregnant or have osteoporosis. Check with your doctor before making an appointment if you have:

  • A blood clotting disorder
  • An increased risk of injury
  • A nerve injury
  • Had recent surgery or chemotherapy

Find a Massage Therapist

A deep tissue massage can help to relax your body and relieve tension. The experience may be uncomfortable after your first time because of the pressure on deep muscle areas, but your body will adjust with each session.

This treatment can aid in a variety of conditions, leaving you feeling better physically and mentally after every session. Make sure to check with one of our professionals before scheduling an appointment.

The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consult a health professional before  proceeding with any treatments mentioned in the above article.

Supporting literature and scientific studies can be found on the References page.

Picture of Ben Humphris - Founder of Results Based Physiotherapy Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT) Educator & Mentor

Ben Humphris - Founder of Results Based Physiotherapy Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT) Educator & Mentor

Ben is the founder and Head Physiotherapist at Results Based Physiotherapy. He uses a wide range of manual therapy techniques to facilitate the healing process, and reduce pain with his clients because he understands that training and doing rehabilitation while in pain is not the solution to recovering well.

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Supporting literature and scientific studies can be found on the References page.