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All About Deep Tissue Massage & 5 Reasons to Learn It

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

If you’re imagining a massage therapist digging their elbow into a client’s back, who might be yelping while also crying out with relief, chances are that’s a deep tissue massage. Done badly, it can cause a lot of damage, but done safely, it can relieve years of tension and promote healing to areas that have experienced past injuries. Learning how to become a massage therapist usually involves becoming acquainted with many different forms of massage, and many new therapists choose to specialize in this popular technique.

What is a deep tissue massage?

There are many different forms of massage, from Swedish to hot stone to chair massage, but deep tissue massage therapy is a very specific type of treatment involving applying deep, sustained pressure and strokes to target deep layers of tissue. The goal is to affect the inner layers of muscle and connective tissues – often as close to the bone as possible. It breaks up scar tissue, promotes faster healing and increases blood flow.

This form of massage is hugely popular among athletes, those who experience chronic pain and people recovering from injuries after the major healing has already occurred.

What does a deep tissue massage do?

Essentially, a deep tissue massage relieves knots and strains in the deepest layers of connective tissue and muscle to relieve tension. It is meant to alleviate chronic muscle pain.

Deep tissue massage benefits those with very specific ailments:

  • Sports injuries (after the recovery period)

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Osteoarthritis pain

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Sciatica

  • Repetitive strain or postural problems

  • Tennis elbow

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • High blood pressure

  • Lower back pain

  • Neck and shoulder pain

How does it work?

There are two different types of deep tissue massage strategies: stripping and friction. The practice of “stripping” involves using the elbow, forearm, thumbs or knuckles to apply deep, gliding pressure along the length of fibers. “Friction” involves applying pressure across the grain of a muscle. A massage therapist will warm up areas before diving into deeper tissues.

What are some side effects?

The client will want to drink plenty of water after a deep tissue massage. Effects of the massage include increased circulation, soreness for a day or two and the movement of metabolic waste from tissues (which the water will help with). Those who experience noticeable bruising should contact a doctor, as it may be related to clots or illnesses.

Of course, this form of massage is certainly not for everyone. Here are some examples of people who should not receive this form of massage:

  • Those with blood clots or who are at risk of blood clots, like those with deep vein thrombosis

  • Those who have had chemotherapy, radiation or surgery recently

  • Those with infections, hernias, bruises, rashes, fragile bones or unhealed conditions

  • Those who are pregnant (who should consult their doctor and therapist first)

  • Those who are taking blood thinners

  • Those who have a bleeding disorder like hemophilia

Because it can do damage to certain groups of people, it’s not advisable for a therapist to just dive in without proper training.

How can I learn how to do deep tissue massage safely?

A deep tissue massage training course will do a deep dive into the safety of the practice, the anatomy of the body and all the education you’ll need to do this safely. This can be done either as a CEU or full deep tissue massage certification. Getting a massage therapy license will provide you with an overview of many different techniques, which you can later specialize in.

What are some of the main reasons to learn deep tissue massage?

Here are the top five reasons why you should consider learning about or even specializing in this technique.

1. This form of massage enables you to attack your clients’ most severe forms of pain.

Common injuries, sports injuries, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain and tennis elbow are all fairly extreme forms of pain and being able to service your clients with those conditions will enable you to have a more humane and helpful practice.

2. Learning it forces you to have a real-world, in-depth understanding of anatomy.

This makes you a better therapist overall, as you won’t be as afraid of the body and understand pressure points on a more tangible level.

3. Not learning these techniques properly and attempting them on your own can cause quite a bit of damage.

Stripping and friction cannot be done by anyone off the street; doing this when you’re not an expert can harm your clients.

4. It enables you to find new groups of dedicated clients.

Athletes like runners and those active in sports need deep tissue massage regularly, and that’s a dedicated clientele that many beginner massage therapists need as customers.

5. It’s an expectation of most serious massage therapists.

To address some of the most common complaints that clients walk in with, you need deep tissue massage in your arsenal. While it’s not the best technique for all types of issues, major issues like fibromyalgia and lower back pain often cannot be addressed well with only Swedish or chair massage.

Are there courses for deep tissue massage training near me?

Yes, there are practical, hands-on courses nearby that can help teach you how to safely do deep tissue massage. Florida, Texas, Maryland, Connecticut and Pennsylvania campuses all feature our professional massage therapy program. See if there’s a deep massage training course near you or contact us today!

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