Deep Tissue massage is a type of massage that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue (fascia). It is especially helpful for chronic aches and pains and contracted areas such as stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders. Some of the same strokes are used as in Swedish massage, but the movements are slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain in order to reach the sub-layer of muscles and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles).
What are Trigger Points?
Many people confuse Trigger Points with Acupressure Points. They are very different. Let me explain:
Acupressure points are concentrations of energy or blockages on the meridian lines – the body’s energy pathways. Acupressure points don’t refer pain the way trigger points do; and they aren’t painful to touch unless they happen to coincide with a trigger point.
Reflexology and acupuncture are both based on stimulating acupressure points.
Acupressure and Acupuncture treatments both enjoy greater success in relieving instant pain when a trigger point is present at the same site as an acupressure point. Trigger points are small areas of knotted muscles that are in a continual state of contraction. The pain associated with the area is due to the build up of toxins and/or the lack of oxygen. This tension reduces circulation and/or proper nerve function to that area further compounding the issue. It may also impact a different part of the body by constricting blood flow or nerve impulses to other body parts. This is called: referred pain, and may cause pain in the area opposite to where the muscle tension is located. Trigger points are usually very painful to pressure and if left untreated can greatly impair proper muscle function. It may also result in a loss of strength and potentially muscle tissue over time if sorted.
People often say “pressure points” when they mean to say “trigger points”. A pressure point is what you press on to stop the flow of blood from a wound. Pressure is used on a trigger point not to stop blood flow, but increase it. To increase blood flow in a muscle, the pressure applied to a trigger point should always be intermittent, in the form of a repeated massage stroke.
How Does It Work?
When there is chronic muscle tension or injury, there are usually adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation. Deep tissue & trigger point massage works by physically breaking down these adhesions to relieve pain and restore normal movement.
Client Set Up
In a Clinic or Spa clients often request a Deep Tissue/ Therapeutic massage, whilst still expecting to leave having experienced a deeply relaxing treatment. So it is important that you achieve the desired result: deep muscular tension release – and still have your client leave feeling pampered, nurtured and utterly relaxed.
Things to consider when doing a Deep Tissue treatment:
- Massage table height – lower means you can use more of your body weight. Work smart, not hard!
- Client comfort – never use elbows unless it is for static trigger point work on the belly of a muscle; prepare the tissue well before you go deep & make sure to keep it a relaxing treatment!
- Your client - be very aware of your client’s breathing & sublingual messages (body language) during the treatment. Their body will communicate to you whether it’s painful, too firm or uncomfortable.
- Make sure the temperature is warm and comfortable - a cold body won't relax!
Trigger points will hurt when they are compressed. In fact, it’s common for a client to say that “it hurts good”. It’s important to realize that the pain will benefit your client. Other benefits are:
- Deeply relaxing
- Reduces heart rate, blood pressure and respiration
- Reduces muscle tension
- Increases oxygen supply to the muscle
- Improves nerve functioning
- Releases endorphins in localized areas of pain
- Increases mobility around joints
It is absolutely essential to know your major muscle groups when doing a therapeutic treatment. It is also very important to know in which direction the muscle fibres run. “Cross-fibre” work is not always appropriate to do in a Clinic or Spa treatment; this is generally the way in which a physiotherapist will manipulate a tight/injured muscle.
It is also important to remember that muscles work in antagonistic pairs. The area where the pain is felt is not always the tight muscle. For example: a client may have lower back pain due to over-tight hip flexor muscles. In this case the lower back muscles will lock up in order to help release the front hip flexors. During your treatment you will in this case want to release the Quadratus Lumborun muscles.
Aftercare for a Deep Tissue Treatment is essential to recommend and advise your client of the following after a treatment:
- drink plenty of water
- keep the muscles & body warm - spa, sauna or wheat bag is great
- you should expect to feel a little tender or stiff 24 hours after - this is normal
- ideally you should book in for the follow up session 10 - 14 days later