Deep tissue massage differs from your standard massage at a spa or salon. Many massage therapists offer this unique type of treatment for the purpose of achieving maximum lasting health benefits. Naturopathic doctor Cathy Wong explains that deep tissue massage focuses on the realignment of muscles with their connective tissue, claiming that the strokes along the body are similar to that involves in the Swedish-style massage. However, there is a much more concentrated focus on problem areas, as well as a heightened pressure in order to reach muscles closer to the bone.
Sound painful? You might be surprised. The soreness that can come from a deep tissue massage is similar to that of a great workout. You may even feel a bit dehydrated as if you have just exercised your body.
Lasting muscle relaxation
Lots of people choose acupuncture and other natural treatments over massage because most patients feel that the effects of the sessions last longer. While muscles can indeed contract from stress and other causes the minute you step away from the soothing sounds and smells of the massage room, deep tissue massage does encourage muscles to stay relaxed. Since the muscles may be slightly sore after an appointment, they’re almost too tender to even become tense for some time.
Many patients (I included) sleep much better following a deep tissue appointment. This effect can last a few days, which leaves you feeling rejuvenated. It also allows time for your muscles to heal, since cell regeneration occurs during sleep.
Recovery from past emotional trauma
Most people have heard of muscle memory in reference to dance and other activities. Did you know that your muscles can also remember trauma? Western medicine is just catching on to this well-known fact in Eastern medicine. Muscle memory, in this case, is twofold. Firstly, touching muscles that were involved in trauma (e.g. a car accident) can trigger memories of an event. Secondly, muscles and tissue can act as storage for the emotional trauma that has been psychologically buried.
Some patients actually cry when they receive deep tissue treatment. This has nothing to do with physical pain—rather, emotional pain is said to be released during deep tissue massage. Author John Barnes wrote “Healing Ancient Wounds—a Renegade’s Wisdom” to address tissue memory and its release from the body. As he highlights, childhood wounds and other things that you may never want to think about on a conscious level may still be things that you carry along with you for the ride of life. Why not release some of the excess baggage?
In “Owning Pink”, writer Fred Krazeise refers to well-known acupuncturist Nicole Cutler, L., Ac. in his article on trauma release through the body. Cutler claims that Western medicine proves the science of the mind-body connection through the following three facts: “Immune system response is enhanced by memory T-cells maintaining information about previous attacks by specific foreign antigens; muscle memory improves the ability of top-class sportspeople and musicians to perform optimally even under extreme pressure, and genetic research has demonstrated that the matrix composing our bodies’ cells (DNA) possess a complex information storage system.”
One of the few effective remedies for chronic pain
Anyone who suffers from chronic pain can tell you that they are willing to try anything to get rid of it! Dr. John Sarno addresses chronic (long-term) pain in his bestselling book “Healing Back Pain.” Massage can help to relax you enough that your nervous system reaps the benefits. Nerve pain can be helped during a regular massage, but deep tissue massage has lasting benefits that can help you to discover where the pain originates.
For example, tendonitis pain can disappear after deep tissue massage if the massage therapist finds the origin of the cause. However, whenever you see “itis” tacked on to the end of a word, this refers to inflammation. Inflamed areas of the body may not beg for pressure or touch, so be very clear if the deep tissue massage causes a sharp pain instead of the common dull, aching pain.