A type of massage therapy, deep tissue massage involves applying firm pressure and slow strokes to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles).1
It’s often used for chronic aches and pain and contracted areas such as a stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.
Deep tissue massage usually focuses on a specific problem, such as chronic muscle pain, injury rehabilitation, and the following conditions:2
- Low back pain
- Limited mobility
- Recovery from injuries (e.g. whiplash, falls)
- Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome3
- Postural problems
- Muscle tension in the hamstrings, glutes, IT band, legs, quadriceps, rhomboids, upper back
- Osteoarthritis pain
- Piriformis syndrome4
- Tennis elbow
- Upper back or neck pain3
Not all of these benefits have been scientifically proven. But if you are interested in a massage to prevent sports injury, address sport-specific concerns, or to help with muscle recovery after sports, consider getting a sports massage.
What to Expect
Deep tissue massage techniques are used to break up scar tissue and physically break down muscle “knots” or adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) that can disrupt circulation and cause pain, limited range of motion, and inflammation.
While some of the strokes may feel the same as those used in Swedish massage therapy, deep tissue massage isn’t a stronger version of a Swedish massage.
At the beginning of a deep tissue massage, lighter pressure is generally applied to warm up and prepare the muscles. Specific techniques are then applied. Common techniques include: