The practice of true Deep Tissue Massage requires great skill, which, according to Tom Myers, is “…elusive and not-easily grasped.” I can attest to that. Many practitioners I have come across advertising deep tissue work are simply not skilled in this particular art. There are many reasons for this, (none of which will be addressed in this post—sorry!). What I will focus on today, however, is what deep tissue massage really means, how it should feel, and what the desired results should be.
What is Deep Tissue Massage? I am going to rely heavily on the seminal book by Art Riggs called “Deep Tissue Massage.” Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? This book remains foundational in my growth as a manual therapist. According to Riggs,Deep Tissue Massage is not a “hard” massage. That is, it doesn’t take a great amount of strength and should never involve “digging” into the tissues. To be blunt, that is abuse not massage. I cannot express this enough, IT SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL. If you feel you need to tap out, then it may be time to end the massage. If a person tells me that they do not like deep tissue work, I assume it is because they were “beat up” by a massage therapist who meant well, but didn’t understand the practice. And here is another surprise: Deep Tissue Massage should not involve work solely on the deep tissues. That would be overwhelming to the client and to their system.
Now, let us sink into the reality of Deep Tissue Massage. Simply put, Deep Tissue Massage is exactly that: Accessing and affecting the deep tissues of the body. This is done very slowly working WITH the body to “sink” as deeply as the clients body will allow us. It is also achieved by using the bones to access the deep tissues. The practitioner may also stretch the fascia to change the deep structures. This should cause not strain on the recipient or the therapist. The goal of this is to alter the structure of the body and release muscle restrictions.
Deep Tissue Massage should be designed to achieve certain and specific therapeutic goals. These could include pain relief, improving posture, increasing flexibility, and creating more freedom of movement. Deep Tissue Massage is not a “relaxation massage,” meaning that relaxation is not its primary goal. However, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, it can be very relaxing and nurturing indeed.
Always remember, when you are going to receive a massage, no matter the type, interview the therapist. This is your body they are working with. Like all professions, some therapists need a bit more training. If you care about your health, find a good therapist (or several with differing expertise) and hang on to them!
To Your Health.