Massage therapy

History, Benefits & Techniques of Deep tissue massage

With a multitude of therapies on the market, it is difficult to know which one you should opt for. The deep tissue massage is a treatment that you have probably heard of on several occasions and have been intrigued by but have not felt brave enough to try. The title itself makes it sound as though it is going to be painful and uncomfortable.

The intentions of a deep tissue massage, is relaxation, reparation, and longevity of pain-free time are what this massage is about. Some people would tell you that a deep tissue massage is a miracle worker, allowing many individuals to return to an agony-free quality of life.

As the therapy has brought you to this page, it is probably safe to say that you have soreness or aching and that you are looking for a way to take those feelings away. Maybe your doctor or a good friend has suggested this massage to you and you want to know what it is about and what will happen to your body. If you are super lucky then you may have had a session booked for you as a birthday or ‘just because’ gift. Nerves and questions are a normal part of experiencing something new, and we hope that the information given to you here will help to relieve your concerns and answer your queries so that when you arrive at your session, you will feel calm and relaxed.

The history of the deep tissue massage

Perhaps the first question you have concerns how well known the deep tissue massage is or whether it is just another passing craze. After all, there are so many choices on the market, how can you possibly research them all in depth?

This therapy has been practiced for as long as the world itself has existed. With centuries of perfecting the treatment, it is now considered to be one of the most taught and practiced procedures in the world of massage.

There are a couple of thoughts about where the deep tissue massage originated.

According to some understandings, this form of bodywork has been practiced since the times of the Ancient Greeks and the Egyptian Pharaohs. In this version, the working of deep tissues was a custom that had been taken to Canada and the United States towards the end of the 1800s. Although no one can say for certain at the moment, it is possible that it was one of many experiences that were brought to the western world, along with other traditions during the times of colonialism.

Whether the specifics were adapted after being brought to the west or were a new idea altogether, it is impossible to prove. The origin of the deep tissue massage does however have some very firm routes in Canada. With everything documented and introduced to the rest of the world in an orderly, detailed, and insightful fashion by Dr. Phimmer.

Doctor Therese Phimmer was a Canadian woman who was left with paralysis in her lower limbs in 1946. Due to an accident at a laundry service, Therese lost her ability to independently walk and feel her legs. Therese was not prepared to remain this way and began massaging her legs daily, attempting to unlock the imprisoned nerves so that she could get her life back.

Aiming for the deep muscles and the nerves that were surrounding them every day, Therese gradually regained feeling and eventually the full use of her legs again. Therese, proud of her accomplishment and wishing to share the success with others, completed a physiotherapy course so that she could practice professionally. As soon as she became qualified she opened her own clinic in 1949.

At the same time as opening her clinic offering deep tissue massages to private clients and teaching her students how to use the healing art, Therese Phimmer released her book ‘Muscles: Your Invisible Bonds’. The book and the customs of the massage created the guidelines and procedures that we use when practicing today.

Since then scores of therapists have witnessed the benefits of this practice and have undertaken training so that they too can help people like yourself to feel happy and pain-free.

What is a deep tissue massage?

Dr. Therese Phimmer and other practitioners since her have given us the tools and understanding to ensure that you fully enjoy your time on the couch. With the guidance that has been set in place, a considerable amount of time is spent warming up your muscles gently so that the therapist can access the areas required without hurting you.

With your muscles warmed and prepped, your deep tissue massage can reach deep inside to the core of the muscular tissue. Sustained pressure is placed at the beginning of each muscle and then pushed slowly along the length of it, all the way to the end. This is a massage that does not simply concentrate on the muscle itself, the deep strokes continue to the connective tissues breaking down any knots, scar tissues, and tension.

Two techniques can be used, both of which you will be likely to experience while with in your session:

  • Stripping is a gliding pressure that spans the length of the muscle. The technician will use their forearm, elbow, knuckles, and thumbs to ensure that all tissue fibres are attended to and it is hoped that you will feel an immediate release of tension.
  • Friction is the other technique. This method consists of the pressure being placed upon the muscular tissue and moved across the width instead of along the length as was practiced in the stripping strokes. This friction releases the scar tissues and realigns the fibres to their original and purpose-built form. In this way, an initial ping can become a complete unknotting around the whole area that was aching.

Why chose a deep tissue massage?

With so many massage and relaxation techniques available why would you choose a deep tissue massage over a Swedish or Thai one?

Intended for musculoskeletal issues, the deep tissue massage is ideal for sprains, strains, sports injuries, and healing. It is a well-known drug-free way to relax and repair.

An evidence base is consistently growing, showing that the benefits of deep tissue therapy significantly reduce the reparation time of individual injuries and provide adequate pain management for longer-term conditions like multiple sclerosis.

Benefits of a deep tissue massage

As deep tissue massages become more popular and research, feedback and longer-term achievements are understood, the list of benefits continues to expand.

It is an excellent way to reduce tension from contracted muscles such as the neck and shoulders. It has even been reported to ease the symptoms of whiplash, back pain, and sciatica. Allowing you respite from the uncomfortable pain and therefore improving your quality of life.

More recently, deep tissue massages have been found to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia as it is believed to relax the central nervous system. This form of therapy also affects the hormones that are essential for pain blocking and mood evaluation. After one of these massages, you will be buzzing with endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These hormones also help to manage symptoms from stress, depression, and anxiety so your mental health will have an extra boost.

If this deep tissue therapy was not already sounding like it is overflowing with benefits there are still so many more.

Have you heard of a policeman’s heel? Otherwise known as Plantar Fasciitis, this condition is a strain of the ligament on the bottom of your foot, between the arch and the heel. Between the ages of 40 and 60, this muscle strain becomes more common and many people are having to rest, take anti-inflammatories, and use heat and ice for weeks on end. That ache when you first place your foot on the ground in the morning, that continues to come and go throughout the day has an alternative treatment though; deep tissue massage.

If that was not enough this massage increases respiratory function for chronic lung diseases like asthma, promotes faster healing of muscles through the increased blood flow, reduces blood pressure, and helps with other musculoskeletal issues like mobility and posture. The benefits just do not seem to end.

What happens during a deep tissue massage?

If you have understood that the benefits are enormous, you may be wondering what will happen when you arrive. As with anything new, nerves are to be expected so we have tried to give you as much detail as possible to put your mind at ease.

Step 1

When you arrive, the first thing you will do is have a chat about what you are hoping to get from the massage. Which deep tissues you are experiencing difficulties with and what your therapist can do to help. Although you can ask questions at any point, this is the best time to get the ins and outs of whatever worries you so that once the deep tissue massage begins, you can relax and let the massage revive you.

Which part of the body will be massaged will depend on your problem areas. Some people request a full-body deep tissue therapy session to aid their overall relaxation and to release any small knots and adhesions.

Other people, who are having pains and aches in particular areas, only wish for that site to be concentrated on. If you are only having pain in your leg, there is not much point to us spending half an hour reaching the deep tissues of your arm and vice versa.

Although a full-body deep tissue massage would be a great way to prevent a build-up of metabolic toxins and small issues before they become debilitating, it is probably not what you came for.

Knowing what you are struggling with allows the therapist to dedicate their time to the area that is going to help you to get back on with your day comfortably and as pain-free as possible.

Step 2

You will be shown to a private room where you will be able to undress alone. You must keep your underwear on, although you will be given a towel to place over yourself. The only part of your body that needs to be available to the practitioner is the area that needs to be worked on.

Therefore, if the practitioner is working on your policeman’s heel, you will probably want to keep your top on.

Step 3

When the deep tissue massage begins, a light touch will be used until your muscles are warm. Once this has been achieved the kneading and stroking will begin with varying levels of pressure.

Step 4

The deep tissue massage has finished and although you are feeling so good that you never want it to stop, it is time for the practitioner to leave the room and let you get dressed with privacy. The therapist will be waiting just outside as soon as you are ready. At this point, you could book a routine full body massage to catch those naughty muscles before they cause discomfort again.

Does a deep tissue massage hurt?

Some people are nervous about whether deep tissue massages hurt and therefore we have dedicated a section to answer that question specifically.

With any massage, including deep tissue ones there can be some discomfort at times. This is often because the muscle is tight already and tender. At times there may be a slight pain however that should be brief.

If you continue to feel pain or you feel that the pain was more than you were expecting then please tell the therapist straight away. Although a little bit of discomfort is to be expected, pain can have the opposite effect to what you are aiming for. Pain itself can cause a muscle and the surrounding areas to tighten and tie themselves up in knots. If the muscles tighten then the practitioner will be unable to reach the inner depths.

Often all that is needed is to return to the slow movements to warm up the muscles a bit more or to adjust the way that the muscles is worked.

Remember you can tell your therapist to stop at any time!

Deep tissue massage side effects

Even though the benefits of a deep tissue massage are relaxation, reparation, and reduced pain there is the possibility that you will be sore after the therapy. This can last for a day or two but as soon as that eases the full benefits of the massage will be experienced.

Are deep tissue massages safe?

Deep tissue massages are known to be very safe and beneficial for a multitude of ailments. As we discussed earlier this therapy can improve symptoms of serious muscle conditions such as fibromyalgia. It can also help with multiple sclerosis, ALS, and Parkinson’s too.

There are circumstances when deep tissue massages would not be advised without agreement from your general practitioner. If you suffer from a blood clotting disorder you must speak to your GP as there is the possibility that the massage will release one of your clots.

If you are taking blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder then this should also be checked with your GP.

Although people who have been diagnosed with cancer will feel the benefits of a deep tissue massage it is essential that you speak to your usual doctor first, there may be another massage therapy that would be more suited to your condition.

It is not recommended that Osteoporosis sufferers receive a deep tissue massage as if the bones are weak then the pressure could cause a small fracture.

As your therapist will be thoroughly trained in, and practice such a variety of massage therapy techniques,  they will have an alternative that may be more suited to your needs.

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