Techniques used in deep tissue massage involve varying amounts of pressure and strokes. A therapist will use fingers, thumbs and palms, much like a relaxation massage, for lighter pressure. Fists, forearms and elbow are also used, however, as they can help the therapist add more force to the strokes. Deeper pressure is used than a Swedish massage technique, although similar strokes are involved. This doesn’t mean deep tissue massage is just a ‘harder’ version of a Swedish massage – there are different goals and outcomes to both styles. Techniques used by a deep tissue massage therapist include:
In stripping, the therapist will use their knuckles, thumbs, elbows or forearms to massage along a patient’s muscle fibres, in slow, gliding strokes. They will use sustained pressure, and knots or problem areas will be easily identified. This is usually more relaxing than other techniques used, and can help to lengthen out muscles, as well as relax them.
Friction, also known as cross-fiber massage, goes across your muscle fibres, or ‘against the grain’. This breaks up knots, releases adhesions, and allows muscles to realign in a healthy manner. This redistribution also aids in breaking down scar tissue. Friction can feel ‘bumpier’ than stripping, as it goes the opposite way to the muscle fibres. Friction can also be more uncomfortable than stripping, but has just as many benefits.
Trigger Point Therapy
The massage therapist will identify a trigger point, and then slowly apply pressure, using their thumb, knuckle or elbow. They will hold pressure on the patient until they feel a change in the tissue underneath them. This can be uncomfortable, but the patient will feel relief when the therapist releases the pressure. The therapist may ask the patient to breathe out while they are applying pressure, which can also ease tension.
While you are sure to leave your first appointment feeling more relaxed than when you went in, there are a few things it is useful to know before your first appointment.