Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that’s mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues, such as strains and sports injuries. It involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.
It may also promote faster healing by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.
Read on to learn more about deep tissue massage, including how it stacks up against Swedish massage and what to expect during a session.
Deep tissue massage offers both physical and psychological benefits. Unlike other massage techniques that focus on relaxation, deep tissue massage helps to treat muscle pain and improve stiffness. But it can still help to you unwind mentally, too.
A 2014 study involving 59 participants found that deep tissue massage helped to reduce pain in people with chronic low back. The authors likened its effects to those of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil).
People have also reported that deep tissue massage helps with:
Deep tissue massage and Swedish massage are two different types of massage therapy. Both use some of the same strokes, but they have different uses and vary greatly when it comes to the amount of pressure used.
Here are the key differences between deep tissue massage and Swedish massage:
Before your deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will want to know about your problem areas. A deep tissue massage can involve your entire body or just one area.
Once ready, you’ll be asked to lie on your back or stomach, under a sheet. Your level of undress is based on your comfort, but the area being worked on will need to be exposed.
The massage therapist will warm up your muscles using a lighter touch. Once you’re warmed up, they’ll start working on your problem areas. They’ll use deep kneading and stroking with varying amounts of intense pressure.
It’s not unusual to have some lingering soreness for a few days following a deep tissue massage. Using a heating pad or a cold pack wrapped in a towel may help to relieve soreness.
Though massage therapy is generally safe, deep tissue massage uses very firm pressure and may not be safe for everyone.
Speak to your doctor before having a deep tissue massage if you:
Anyone with osteoporosis or cancer that’s spread to the bones should avoid deep tissue massage as the firm pressure used may cause a fracture. You should also hold off on deep tissue massages if you’re pregnant. Gentler types of massage, such as Swedish massage, may be a better option.
If you have an open wound or skin infection of any kind, you’ll need to reschedule to avoid developing a new infection or making an existing one worse.
If you want to try a deep tissue massage, it’s important to work with a qualified massage therapist.
To find a massage therapist:
As you sort through potential massage therapists, keep a few things in mind:
Deep tissue massage is best suited for people who engage in highly physical activities, such as running, or those who have an injury or chronic pain. If you have a low pain threshold or are looking for relief of tense muscles, Swedish massage is gentler and may be a better option. Speak to your doctor before trying deep tissue massage if you have an underlying medical condition.