Deep tissue massage, when compared to classic Swedish massage, treats the deeper muscle groups. The massage strokes are generally slower and of more pressure. Although there may be some discomfort from deep tissue massage, it should always be tolerable. Good communication with your registered massage therapist is a must. Be sure to provide your RMT feedback, and your therapist will check with you regularly to make sure you are happy with the level of pressure.
Like Swedish massage, deep tissue massage still uses effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (percussing or rhythmic tapping), friction and vibration. Swedish massage is typically done with the fingers, thumbs, and palms. Deep tissue massage will also use forearms, elbows, and knuckles. Whereas classic techniques tend to be whole body treatment with an emphasis on relaxation, deep tissue massage often focuses on specific areas of problem.
Muscles are enclosed in a layer of connective tissue known as fascia. With muscle injury or long term immobility, the fascia becomes inflexible and adhesions may form between the fascia and surrounding structures. This results in loss of function, inflexibility, and pain. Deep tissue massage removes those fascial adhesions, allowing the patient to get back to normal function.
The following are some of the conditions treated with deep tissue massage:
- Chronic muscle injuries
- Carpal tunnel
- Sports injuries
- Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)
- Chronic low back pain
- Loss of shoulder mobility (frozen shoulder)
- Some types of headaches
Research studies are showing the health benefits of massage. A 2013 study done by the Louisiana State University and published in International Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at the effects of deep tissue massage on blood pressure. Patients were given three massage treatments per week for ten treatments. Systolic blood pressure was lowered by 10.4 mm Hg, while diastolic blood pressure was lowered by 5.3 mm Hg. This is a significant reduction and can lower the need for harmful pharmaceutical drugs.
A 2014 study published in the journal Manual Therapy discovered that deep tissue massage of the calf muscles is an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis.
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