Is a Deep Tissue Massage therapist right for me?

A Deep Tissue massage is a form of massage therapy used to heal and alleviate muscle-related issues and sports injuries. In this article, we’ll explore what a deep tissue massage is, share important deep tissue massage benefits, common misconceptions, comparison to Swedish massage, possible side effects, and where to find a deep tissue massage therapist near me.

What is a deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage is a modality or technique that massage therapists use to treat individuals who suffer from musculoskeletal issues. So, if you are feeling “stiff” or even “stuck”, it is quite possible that your therapist may suggest a deep tissue massage to aid in the release and relaxation of the tight muscles

One of the most commonly requested styles of massage, Deep tissue massage is not considered a prescribed modality. In other words, therapists in training do not learn a series of moves prescribed as “Deep tissue massage.” In reality, deep tissue massage utilizes a variety of strokes to affect the deep tissues and fascia of the body

The therapists’ attention is directed toward the supportive and protective layers of fascia – a thin layer that surrounds muscles- to ensure their freedom of movement.  The purpose of deep tissue massage is to lengthen muscles fibers by loosening the fascial bonds holding them. 

Fun Fact: Deep tissue massage’s development has been credited to Therese Phimmer, a Canadian doctor though the practice is likely thousands of years old. Her book “Muscles – Your Invisible Bonds” appears to be the first text that talks about a Deep Tissue practice. 

What are the benefits of a Deep Tissue Massage?

In a prior article on Be Well Bodyworks, we talked about the commonly known benefits of Deep Tissue Massage. These included: relaxation, pain elimination, a better night’s sleep, and Improved athletic performance, but there are a variety of other ailments that Deep Tissue Massage therapy can assist with. 

Note: Many people will claim that massage will “heal” an issue, but the reality is that a massage is a tool that can aid the body in recovery from many musculoskeletal issues. 

Below is a list of other muscle-related ailments that Deep Tissue Massage can assist with. 

  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Rehabilitation of an injury
  • Chronic Muscle tension
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neck and lower back pain
  • Chronic headaches

Be sure to speak with your therapist to determine if this type of treatment would be appropriate for you. 

What is the difference between a Swedish massage vs deep tissue massage

I mentioned earlier that there is no prescribed modality called Deep tissue massage? Well, that is true, but there are other styles of massage where at least one of the goals is to lengthen the muscles. The most commonly confused one is Swedish massage

Swedish massage is considered a modality of massage. This is a standardized approach that therapists might take with a client. It has a series of prescribed strokes to be used depending on the primary goal: relaxation, increased blood flow, and/or stress relief. According to Web MD, common strokes used in Swedish massage are:

  • Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue
  • Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage.
  • Friction: deep, circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase blood flow and break down scar tissue.
  • Tapotement: a short, alternating tap done with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand.

Swedish Massage differs in many ways from Deep tissue massage. With Deep Tissue Massage technique, the therapist focuses on very specific muscular issues, often “trigger points” or “knots” through a more pointed approach. Therapists approaching a session with a deep tissue, corrective, results focus, or a medical massage mindset will often utilize Swedish techniques such as friction and tapotement to aid in loosening the fascia. The primary difference between the two is in the speed at which the therapists apply the techniques with swedish massage

Deep tissue massage – Slow and steady applied firm pressure to specific spots.

Swedish Massage – Flowing and continuous deep pressure that gradually deepens through the session. 

In a prior article about Swedish Massage, we went over additional differences between deep tissue and Swedish. 

Does a deep tissue massage have side effects?

Expert Rule: Communicate with your therapist about any concerns you have. This practice is the number one tool to ensure that the care you are receiving is the best. 

Because of the nature of deep tissue massage therapy, it is possible to have side effects like pain at the moment as well as some lingering beyond a day or so. The most common side effect of Deep Tissue Massage is a lingering soreness. This is often described as similar to “a good workout” kind of ache. Why does this happen? Due to the nature of Deep Tissue Massage, the therapist is often creating micro-tears in the muscle similar to what happens during a workout. These tears loosen up the binds that in-activity or overuse leads to. 

You should speak to your doctor before receiving a deep tissue massage if you:

  • have a history of blood clots or a clotting disorder
  • are taking blood thinners
  • have a bleeding disorder
  • have cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation
  • start feeling chronic pain
  • You are currently undergoing physical therapy

Pregnant women seeking the relief of a therapeutic massage should look for gentler forms than Deep Tissue Massage. Prenatal and Swedish massages tend to be better choices. 

Want to learn more about the science of massage? Check out our introduction article.


Deep Tissue Massage Techniques: What to expect.

Since Deep Tissue Massage is driven by the goal of lengthening and releasing muscles, the various techniques utilized will vary depending on the severity and need. Three common techniques used are Cross fiber friction, trigger point therapy, and myofascial release.  Each of these techniques is focused on freeing up the “stuck” or “locked” muscle through the breakdown of the “bindings” (often fascia) that are holding it locked in the first place. Cross Fiber Friction includes longer strokes that run perpendicular to the muscle fibers, breaking up the fibers more quickly. Trigger point therapy finds those “knots” and with the help of the therapist, slowly releases the “knot” and the sympathetic areas associated with it. Myofascial release aims to release the outer layer of fascia from around the muscle through a “dry” stroke, moving the dermal over the muscle

How to find a deep tissue massage therapist near me?

There are 3 steps that I would suggest when finding a Deep Tissue Therapist near you. 

Step 1: The most common way to find a Deep Tissue Massage therapist near you is through search engines such as Google. Search the term “Deep Tissue Massage near me” and you’ll likely have quite a few locations that include Deep Tissue work pop up.  

Step 2: Choose a few (at least 3-5) locations to call. Bonus tip: Some locations will include their availability on their website as well as articles about their practice. This can help narrow things down before step 3. 

Step 3: Call the options you have chosen and ask;

  • “I currently have “x” issue and would like to work with a therapist. Do you have any suggestions on what kind of massage I should get?”
  • “I’ve heard that Deep Tissue Massage is a method that could benefit my situation. Is there someone at your location who specializes in Deep Tissue Massage?”
  • “Would Deep Tissue Massage be a good fit for me?”
  • “Does the therapist’s schedule allow for ongoing treatment?”

Bonus Tip: Deep Tissue Massage is most effective when used regularly. Many issues will not be “fixed” in the first session, so subsequent sessions will be beneficial. 

Closing Thoughts 

Deep Tissue Massage and Swedish Massage can be excellent options for individuals suffering from muscular-related issues. If your goal is to lengthen and free up locked-up sore muscles, this treatment may be right for you. Other treatments and specialty massages like Swedish Massage can provide a gentler approach to treatment and may also be beneficial. If you would like to learn more about Deep Tissue Massage or would like to schedule with us, contact Kelly at 303.652.3533 or schedule a session.