Deep Tissue Massage
or
"I Don't Think That Word Means
What You Think it Means"

Have you ever had a deep tissue massage before? How do you know it was really deep tissue? How do you know it wasn't just deep pressure?

Deep tissue massage is probably the most misunderstood massage technique. Many people, including many well meaning professionals, believe that it simply means deep pressure.

While this is true to some extent, it is worth pointing out that deep tissue techniques can be applied to superficial layers just as easily as deeper layers.

The #1 Misconception About Deep Tissue Massage

Most people, including some professionals, hear "deep tissue" and think that it must be painful. To be truthful, I've lost count of the number of clients who have came in and said that they love deep tissue when they really meant that they like lots of pressure that challenges their tolerance for pain.

That's deep pressure, not deep tissue.

It's Not Supposed to Hurt

The simple fact is that deep tissue massage doesn't hurt. It goes deep enough into the tissue to challenge it, deep enough to get some slight resistance from the body...

... and then it waits.

It is almost as if the massage therapist is applying a very local stretch to the tissues. 

This local stretch is held until the body releases that tension, at which point the massage stroke moves forward incrementally and hold a stretch at the next restriction. This is called, "moving at the tissue's pace." The work tends to move slowly.

There may be some intensity to the work. You may get into that "good pain" zone, but the healthier your muscles are, the less likely you will feel any pain at all. Healthy tissue doesn't hurt.

Pain is a signal from your body that you are being damaged, that you're in danger of damage, or that you have already been damaged. Pain makes you tense up and unconsciously fight the massage, limiting the value of the bodywork you invested in.

Your body believes that it is being damaged. It fights the practitioner to protect itself.

I used to believe that massage should be deep, that I had to physically break the tissues up and realign them. After 13 years of service to the Atlanta community, I have learned that's not true. I don't need to hurt you to make you feel better. I don't need to rip your muscles apart to help you move better.

Like Peeling an Onion

If you think of the various layers of muscle and connective tissue like the layers of an onion, deep tissue massage targets a specific layer or two with a lengthening or spreading force. The next layer is targeted after the previous layer has released.

This technique facilitates very deep work that doesn't feel deep at all. I can't tell you how often I've had clients tell me that I could use more pressure while I was basically at the bone. Sure, I can always use more pressure...

...but my job is to heal, not harm.

This kind of work also makes it easy to get into the deepest layers of muscle on people who have been traumatized by deep work in the past. They often don't believe me when I say, "Guess what? This is deep tissue massage right here."

They are later shocked when I point out that I have contacted the bone in that area.

When light touch is painful in an area and the practitioner is able to work through the layers until the bone is contacted without pain... that's deep tissue.

Physiological Effects of Deep Tissue 

Deep tissue's primary effect is to lengthen and elongate tissues on both a neurological and connective tissue level. It can be effective at:

  • Elongating muscle tissue
  • Address postural deviations
  • Reduce ischemia (a lack of blood flow)
  • Remodel scar tissue
  • Free nerves entrapped by muscle
  • Address trigger point activity

Specificity is Key

The work is also done with a high degree of specificity. Deep tissue is well suited for doing detail oriented work, such as treating the rotator cuff or the many muscles surrounding the neck. It can also be applied to larger muscles, but it takes longer to work the entire muscle.

As a matter of fact, I have found that when a client requests deep work, they often mean that they want work that is specific in nature. They just don't know that particular phrasing. Think about it, you don't usually want deep work everywhere, but there are certain areas where deep work can be highly effective at alleviating your pain.

Atlanta Deep Tissue Massage

I have been providing deep tissue massage since I started practicing in 2001. I combine deep tissue with many other techniques to alleviate pain, increase awareness, and provide long lasting relaxation to body and mind.

My practice is conveniently located in the heart of Atlanta where the neighborhoods of Virginia Highlands, Midtown, and Old 4th Ward come together.

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About the Author

My name is Lovelace Linares. I have been practicing massage in Atlanta since 2001. I taught all aspects of massage for nine years, five of which I directed the massage program at the Atlanta School of Massage.

I'm a bit unconventional in my thinking. I believe that self discovery is the purpose of life. Through it, we can all achieve our greatest potentiontial, both individually and as a society.

To that end, i believe that true relaxation comes from two things: (1) Alleviating pain that you are aware of and (2) addressing tension you are not aware of. Self-awareness is the key.

My practice is located inside Urban Body Studios on the scenic Atlanta Beltline. Orthopedics, Deep tissue, Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, Thai massage, and stretching are some of the techniques that I use in my practice.