The term deep tissue massage can sound intimidating, especially if you don't know what's involved. 

This treatment targets the deeper layers of muscle and surrounding connective tissues, and can assist with a range of conditions and pains. However, the experience can be very different to what you might imagine when you think about massages.

This article will prepare you for your first deep tissue massage, including the main steps of treatment, what to keep in mind, and the benefits it can provide. 

Deep tissue massages can hurt, and involve a range of techniques.Therapists can use fingertips, elbows, knuckles and hands during a deep tissue massage.

1. The steps of a deep tissue massage

If you're wondering what happens in a deep tissue massage, here are the key stages:

  • Discussion: Like any treatment, you should discuss what you hope to achieve with your therapist before the massage begins. This also involves signing an 'Informed Consent' form, which is a legal requirement.
  • Muscle preparation - Your therapist will likely start by warming up your muscles by applying oil and light pressure to the areas they'll be working on.
  • Stripping - This is a technique applied using thumbs, knuckles, forearms or elbows. During this phase you'll feel a a gliding pressure along the fibres of your muscles.
  • Friction: Here, pressure is applied across the grain of your muscles with the aim of realigning tissue fibres and releasing any adhesions (areas of rigid tissue) that cause discomfort. 

It's important to know that it isn't unusual to feel a degree of discomfort during the massage itself. The whole point of this treatment is to break up muscle tension, adhesions and scar tissue that often lie in deeper musculature, so your therapist will likely be applying a good deal of pressure. However, you should let them know if this becomes too uncomfortable. Expect to be asked to breathe deeply when the person treating you is working on especially tense or deep areas of your muscles.

It's common to feel a degree of discomfort during the massage itself.

You can also expect to experience some stiffness and soreness in the day or so following your deep tissue massage. Of course, if this pain doesn't naturally fade away then you should get in touch with your therapist to talk it through.

We'll run through a few things you can do to prepare yourself for your treatment that may help with this recovery below.

2. What to keep in mind for your deep tissue massage

Now you know what to expect with regard to the stages of a deep tissue massage, here are some tips to make the most of this treatment.

  • Relax

Knowing that your deep tissue massage might cause some pain can understandably make you nervous. However, try to relax.

Bear in mind that the temporary soreness that can come during this therapy is all working to help alleviate the longer term discomfort that you've been experiencing. There are many benefits of deep tissues massages, especially when it comes to chronic pain. These are covered in detail under point three. 

Tensing up during the massage will also make it more difficult for your therapist to work, meaning it will be less likely that the therapy achieves the results you're hoping for.

  • Drink plenty of water

Massage helps stimulate the circulation of blood and the lymphatic system inside your body. This means bringing important nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, as well as assisting with cleansing cells of toxins.

However, to perform these functions effectively, your blood needs water.

You may find yourself needing to go to the toilet more often than usual following a massage, which is good because it means your body is getting rid of these waste toxins. However, you need to insure you keep drinking to prevent yourself getting dehydrated. 

Consuming a few extra glasses of water will mean the beneficial effects of deep tissue massages last longer.

  • Consider some ice

After your massage is over, applying ice to the muscle areas which received the deepest pressure from your therapist can help with any swelling and pain.

Drink lots of water before and after your deep tissue massage.Drinking plenty of water before and after your massage will help the beneficial effects last longer.

3. What are the benefits of a deep tissue massage?

The reason most people decide to have a deep tissue massage is to deal with a specific problem. Always check with the therapist before the massage begins Common examples may include, but aren't limited to:

  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Injury rehabilitation and athletic recovery
  • Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Postural difficulties 
  • Tennis elbow
  • Sciatica 
  • Limited mobility
  • Lower back pain
  • Breaking up scar tissue

In all of these instances the main aims of deep tissue massage are to lessen discomfort and pain, as well as increasing your body's capacity to heal itself.

4. Where to go for a deep tissue massage?

Hopefully this article has answered your questions about deep tissue massages. Now you need to know where you can find a competent therapist who'll deliver quality treatment that meets your specific needs.

Massage & Myotherapy Australia has a comprehensive directory of the best practitioners in your area, allowing you to compare and find the option that suits you best.