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The Ancient Art of Deep Tissue Massage Therapy: The Benefits

Have you ever had a sudden tooth cavity that became so uncomfortable and/or painful that you needed go and see a dentist? It’s quite likely you did not even know it was there until the onset of the pain? Other ailments such as muscle pain take a similar route. Initially we may not feel it to begin with, until the pain and/or stiffness gradually increases to the point where we feel the need to seek out a Doctor; who tend to prescribe painkillers and/or muscle relaxants that work by masking the symptoms not necessarily treating the root cause of the problem.

Massage therapy, on the other hand, has been utilized in the treatment of illness and injury for thousands of years by health care practitioners. Some Chinese writings, dating as far back as 2500 BC, describe the use of deep tissue massage therapy for a variety of medical purposes.1,2. It was advocated for a number of conditions such as musculoskeletal injuries, stress, anxiety, relaxation, detoxification, pregnancy, and even cancer sufferers.2,3,4

What is Deep Tissue Massage Therapy?

The main objective of deep tissue massage is to help restore a balanced upright posture, decrease the symptoms of pain, break down scar tissue and muscle adhesions, and improve one’s range of motion. It is a technique that works on the deeper layers of muscle tissue. When our bodies experience chronic muscle tension or we suffer from a past injury we normally present with adhesions (bands of painful, rigid connective tissue) in, on and around the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adhesions can block blood, oxygen and waste product circulation this can cause pain, limit our range of movement, and cause further inflammation.5

According to Brummitt (2008) deep tissue massage in fact describes a number of different techniques (i.e., effleurage, petrissage, and deep traverse friction); all of which focus on realigning the deeper layers of the muscles, in order to alleviate chronic aches and pains in contracted areas such as a stiff neck or upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and/or sore shoulders.

Similar to classic massage therapy, the strokes are similar but the movement is slower, with the pressure deeper and more concentrated on the areas of tension and pain, in order to reach the sub-layer of muscles and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles). A deep tissue massage therapist may use deep finger/thumb, elbows or knuckles for added pressure that focuses on particular areas of your body.

At times this form of massage can be a little intense or uncomfortable but it is excellent for releasing the pain and tension you may currently be holding. The therapist will often use a special blend of massage oil to help break down the adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement of the muscle.

How does it work?

A tight or knotted muscle can be likened to a light bulb – when we go to switch it off, it stays on. These muscles are continuously contracted, working when they should be off or resting. In contrast, the inhibited muscle will just flicker on and off when we try to turn it on. Thus the muscle is not working or firing properly even when we need it to.

Deep tissue massage works by physically breaking down the adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement of muscles and tendons. This practice assists the muscles to relax whilst removing waste products and increasing oxygen and blood flow into your muscles. This helps your body remove toxins and metabolic wastes from the sore and/or overworked muscles, allowing them to recover far more quickly by circulating oxygen rich blood into the working muscles.