The term “massage” is believed to be derived from the ancient Greek word “masso”, which meant to knead with the hands. In ancient China, deep tissue massage techniques were prescribed and used to relieve pain and increase the body’s flow of energy.
I. Deep Tissue Massage Described
Most people know that a massage makes you feel great. Massage promotes blood flow and relieves muscle tension and pain. Massage therapy is a way to naturally relieve stress and anxiety by helping your body and your mind to fully relax. What many people do not know is that massage therapy can provide health benefits, too. Scientific studies show that massage improves the functioning of the human lymphatic system and helps regulate our hormones.
Deep tissue massage is particularly beneficial. Before describing the health benefits a massage can offer, it is important to first understand what a deep tissue massage is. It differs from a regular therapeutic massage in a couple of ways. A regular therapeutic massage is any type of massage that relieves pain or reduces stress. Sometimes lighter pressure and different strokes are needed. Other times simply moving your limbs into different positions is an effective technique for relieving pain.
With deep tissue massage, your therapist will manipulate your muscles and soft tissue to break down scar tissue and really get your blood flowing. You will normally lie on your stomach while a professional massage therapist applies warm massage oil to your skin and pressure to the top layers of your major muscle groups. Applying pressure helps the top layers of your muscles relax and allows the therapist to access and manipulate the deeper layers of tissue.
To get the most benefit from massage therapy, several sessions may be needed. Deep tissue massage is a stronger massage than a regular massage. You may only be able to comfortably tolerate less pressure during the first couple of sessions. Deep tissue massage does not “hurt” but it can cause some discomfort as the therapist manipulates your soft tissues to release tension and toxins.
A person who is new to receiving a massage should probably become accustomed to regular massage therapy before seeking a deep tissue massage. A professional massage therapist will help the client determine what amount of pressure the client can comfortably tolerate to achieve the best results. If too much pressure is used, your muscles will resist by tightening up, and you will not experience the results you are seeking.
II. Health Benefits of a Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage therapy has been proven to provide the human body with several health benefits. You may be amazed at what they include:
1. Reduces Stress Levels
Massage therapy, especially deep tissue massage, promotes relaxation of your body and mind. Deep tissue massage uses more pressure on the soft tissues underneath the top layers of your muscles, so it will do more to reduce stress and lower your blood pressure. It can dilate your blood vessels and lower the activity of your limbic system (including the hypothalamus), which regulates your nervous system and cortisol secretion. Deep tissue massage facilitates blood flow throughout the body, enabling the delivery of oxygen and important nutrients to areas of inflammation and injury. This massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes and soothes your body.
2. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Deep tissue massage has positive effects on blood pressure readings in adults with pain and high blood pressure symptoms.
3. Treats Chronic Pain
Multiple studies have shown that the oblique pressure and combination of lengthening and cross-fiber strokes provide significant improvements in pain levels. One study showed that deep tissue massage therapy provided the same pain relief as regular massage and NSAID pain relievers combined.
4. Breaks Up Post-Injury Scar Tissue
Deep tissue massage is effective in minimizing inflammation and muscle spasms. Inflammation can block blood flow to the site of an injury resulting in the development of toxins and scar tissue. Deep tissue massage stimulates blood flow and allows more oxygen and nutrients to access the injury to promote healthy healing and break up scar tissue that may be forming.
5. Enhances Muscularity, Vigor, and Muscle Recovery
A deep tissue massage designed for athletic performance can enhance athleticism. Such “sports” massages can help an athlete warm up prior to the athletic activity and can help the muscles recover quickly and with less soreness.
6. Other Health Benefits
Research is continuing to determine other health benefits that massage can provide. Studies have shown that deep tissue massage therapy also is a great natural treatment for frozen shoulder, chronic back or neck pain, arthritis pain, stiffness, and range of motion issues. Even a self-administered massage can help, but a deep tissue massage administered by a professional massage therapist provides the most effective pain relief. For pregnant women, deep tissue massage can help with pain, discomfort, and labor. It can even help shorten labor.
Immediately after a deep tissue massage, you may feel some lightheadedness. You should take a few minutes to let yourself recover and be sure to drink the water that your massage therapist provides. A strong massage can be a little dehydrating. A day or so later, you may feel some muscle soreness. This is entirely normal and indicates that your muscles are still releasing toxins in response to the massage treatment.
Once you experience deep tissue massage therapy, its beneficial effects will have you hooked. After the first session or two, you will feel invigorated, healthy, and so relaxed. You will be looking forward to the next one.