Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that’s mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues, such as strains and sports injuries. It involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.


When most people think of massage, they think of Swedish. The style takes its name from a 19th-century Swedish physiologist, Per Henrik Ling, whose system of medical gymnastics included massage. Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) coined a reduced set of maneuvers and techniques of Dr. Ling’s system as the “Swedish massage” system. Swedish massage is defined by four or five (somewhat familiar) techniques, which have French names: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic choppings), and friction (rubbing). Some therapists now incorporate advanced techniques that have rehabilitating effects and stretches for improving your range of motion. But the ultimate goal is relaxation. As the default Western massage, Swedish massage is extremely popular and is simple, soothing touch therapy.

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Thai massage – or Nuat Thai – combines both physical and energetic aspects. It is a deep, full-body massage progressing from the feet up, and focusing on sen or energy lines throughout the body, with the aim of clearing blockages in these lines, and thus stimulating the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body. It draws on yoga, acupressure and reflexology.

For example, I worked on the Indiana Sports Massage Team starting in 1989, as well as the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships and National Championships. I coordinated massage for the 1992 Olympic Trials and was on the 1996 Olympic Massage Team for the Atlanta Olympics—the first time massage therapy was part of the medical staff for the Olympics. These were all volunteer positions, but I loved it!


There’s rarely any justification for extremely painful massage, unless it clearly produces a better result than gentler treatment — which is rarely clear!1 It is possible that a few “brutal” deep tissue massages could do the trick where gentler treatment would fail — but there is no way to know this in advance, and massage is expensive stuff. If you’re going to gamble on a treatment, gamble on cheaper and less painful ones.
Some sports massage therapists use myofascial techniques that focus on stretching the fascia, which are connective tissues surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body. This particular massage technique involves the therapist applying forces in opposing directions which relaxes the tissues. It can help ease pain and increase mobility in the tissues and surrounding muscles.
Plantar fasciitis. According to the JAMA Network, plantar fasciitis occurs when the fibrous band on the bottom of the foot becomes irritated and inflamed, causing pain in the heel and arch areas. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine further indicates that deep tissue massage can be an effective treatment for this particular condition as it helps “release the muscle tension, break scar tissue, and lead to its elimination.”

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Sometimes confused with pressure point massage,[10] this involves deactivating trigger points that may cause local pain or refer pain and other sensations, such as headaches, in other parts of the body. Manual pressure, vibration, injection, or other treatment is applied to these points to relieve myofascial pain. Trigger points were first discovered and mapped by Janet G. Travell (President Kennedy's physician) and David Simons. Trigger points have been photomicrographed and measured electrically[71] and in 2007 a paper was presented showing images of Trigger Points using MRI.[72] These points relate to dysfunction in the myoneural junction, also called neuromuscular junction (NMJ), in muscle, and therefore this technique is different from reflexology, acupressure and pressure point massage.
Imagine there is a connection between zones of your feet and hands that represent certain areas of your body that can be adjusted or managed through these zones. A lot of the theory behind reflexology has to do with aligning your qi, but even for those who normally don’t invest much in this discipline, there are plenty of studies that have supported the claims of reflexologists.
Changes should be implemented immediately instead of in stages, so that patients can go to any reflexology centre without any doubt. The entire centres, spas or even small booth that offer reflexology treatment must obtain a certificate from the Ministry of Health. It is suggested that each centre to have a medical form about patient's details, medical history, and screening form. It is already issued by the Ministry of Health but none of the centres has ever applied.
Deep tissue massage is a type of massage that aims at affecting the deeper tissue structure of the muscles. It also affects the connective tissue, known as fascia. Deep tissue massage helps with both small muscle injuries as well as chronic problems. Deep tissue massage is an excellent way to deal with a whiplash or sports injury, postural misalignment, treating spasms as well as muscle tension. During a deep tissue massage the therapist concentrates on releasing specific chronic muscle tension as well as the muscular knots, or adhesions.

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Frequently, clients will think they have to "focus" or "concentrate" to feel the benefits. While being quiet will frequently induce a deeper feeling in the novice, the client needs to have no special skills or habits for reflexology to work. Reflexologists maintain that as long as the practitioner has knowledge, stays centered, and allows the flow of energy to occur, the client will respond positively.
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
The Emory University announcement reads: "Previous research… has already shown that massage therapy can boost the immune system and decrease anxiety for people who do not have cancer... We believe that there are many positive effects to be gained by therapeutic massage and we hope to prove that, among other biological advantages, massage may diminish the incapacitation that cancer-related fatigue can cause for our patients."
As mentioned above, reflexology has been known to open neural pathways, and this sort of free-flowing neural activity results in a more relaxed state in the body. For this reason, reflexology can flood your system with relaxation, inducing a state of calmness throughout your body and mind. In this same vein, reflexology is commonly used to cure sleep disorders. Insomnia can be a very troubling condition to suffer through, but reflexology helps your body relax and get back to its normal, healthy circadian rhythms.
Interestingly, many patients and therapists swear by massage as a way to reduce constipation or digestive upset, since the increased circulatory benefits and relaxation of the abdominal and lower back muscles can help relieve symptoms. In fact, a 2014 study from the British journal Nursing Standard highlights a number of the ways abdominal massage encouraging muscle contraction, nudging the gut to move things along.
For instance, I tried a new young massage therapist. He introduced a pain scale right away, and asked me to use it to define an intensity I was comfortable with — a 5 out 10, say — and then actually used that scale to check with me quite a few times throughout an hour treatment. He also responded with clear adjustments to his technique when I reported that we were under or over the target I’d set. Great work! BACK TO TEXT

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Sheets and wrappings of connective tissue called fascia are considered an exciting frontier in massage therapy. Supposedly fascia can get tight and needs to be “released.” However, key examples of research either fail to support fascial therapy or actually undermine it — for instance, fascia is too tough to actually change. Fascia enthusiasm seems to be a fad. For more information, see Does Fascia Matter? A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties. BACK TO TEXT

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Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.[80] Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance.[81] Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling,[82] blocking nociception (gate control theory),[83] activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis[84] or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.[10][85]
In addition there are many professional bodies which have a required minimum standard of education and hold relevant insurance policies including: the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT),[112] the Complementary Therapists Association (CThA),[113] and the Complementary Health Professionals (CHP).[114] In contrast to the CNHC these bodies exist to support therapists rather than clients.
While a typical runner’s sports massage focuses primarily on the legs, Denunzio insists on incorporating upper body work as well. As she explains it, “nobody has perfect form, especially when they’re fatigued” and runners can unknowingly tense their upper bodies when working out, which in turn creates tightness in their arms, shoulders and back. Ideally, those areas should receive a little TLC as well.  

Certain massage therapists have specialized training in techniques that help treat people with injuries, inflammation, tears and limitations. Although more than one massage session is usually needed to provide relief and see improvements in pain, well-trained therapists can usually recommend practices or stretches for you to try at home that can further help improve healing. 

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Rubbing deep muscles and relieving pressures has been shown to improve blood flow. New research further explains there is an improvement in circulation in both athletes and non-exercisers, suggesting the benefit beyond the realm of exercise and correlated muscle injury and soreness. Blood pressure and heart rate can also be lowered following deep tissue massage.

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Studies have shown that reflexology can be very beneficial for pregnant women, particularly in terms of labor lengths and their need for analgesics during labor and postpartum recovery time. Beyond that, due to many of the health benefits already outlined above, it can reduce the chances of postpartum depression and can also help a woman’s body heal itself faster and get back to its normal metabolic activity quickly.

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Now for some benefits that are not supported by research. The ability of sports massage to help the muscles get rid of lactic acid is not supported in research studies. Many researchers feel this is linked to the fact that sports massage does not increase blood flow to muscles. For example, a 2010 study found that blood flow was actually mechanically impeded by massage and that was a possible reason that lactic acid removal was impaired. A quicker recovery after sports massage is not yet supported by the research. Studies do support that active recovery (low-intensity exercise after work-out) is the best method of decreasing the amount of lactic acid that builds up after exercise and speeds recovery.
Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
Accredited sports massage therapists must first complete a course in general massage from a school accredited by the American Massage Therapy Association/Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval (AMTA/COMTAA) or their State Board of Education. They must then complete an additional training program approved by the AMTA National Sports Massage Certification Program. Many sports massage practitioners also complete the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.)
Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the United States. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of the massage. The benefits of Swedish massage include increased blood circulation, mental and physical relaxation , decreased stress and muscle tension, and improved range of motion.
Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.

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Reducing dislocated joints; stretching muscle cramps; warming up freezing hands and feet, or restoring circulation to a leg that has fallen asleep; and nearly anything that relieves awful pressure, like lancing boils and cysts or hematomas under toenails, or childbirth, or evacuation of impacted bowels — all very painful, but also very relieving. BACK TO TEXT

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Posterior interosseous syndrome. Physiopedia explains that posterior interosseous syndrome is a compression of the posterior interosseous nerve, which is located near the shaft of the humerus and the elbow, that may result in paresis or paralysis of the thumbs and fingers. Though cryotherapy, ultrasound, dry needling, and other modalities often help with this condition, so too does deep tissue work that is focused on the thoracic outlet, pectoralis minor, triceps, brachioradialis, and other surrounding areas.
In 2015 the Australian Government's Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; reflexology was one of 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[5] Accordingly In 2017 the Australian government named reflexology as a practice that would not qualify for insurance subsidy, saying this step would "ensure taxpayer funds are expended appropriately and not directed to therapies lacking evidence".[6]

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Deep Tissue massages are designed to focus on a specific problem, usually something along the lines of chronic muscle pain, limited mobility, tennis elbow, etc. Cathy Wong explains that according to Consumer Reports magazine, at least 34,000 people claimed that Deep Tissue massages were more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or over-the-counter drugs. It is also especially effective in easing fibromyalgia pain, usually giving clients an improved range of motion immediately following treatment.

Integrative Reflexology is defined as “massage therapy-based reflexology, practiced as both energy work and bodywork.” Integrative reflexology is an holistic discipline which uses the therapist’s hands to apply alternating and firm pressure to stimulate physiological changes in the body. The therapist activates the zone reflex points and meridian points to create beneficial responses in the nervous, electrical and chemical systems of the body. Integrative Reflexology allows the body to relax by releasing tension and improving blood flow. It helps the body to adjust to its own healthy balance.

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Hair loss: Massaging several acupressure points will “stimulate and energize the nerves that are causing the problem.” The Paihui is important. “The Paihui is located right in the middle of your scalp. Most of the pressure points related to the hair re-growth are present near this area. Take ten toothpicks and wrap them in a rubber band. Use them to gently poke the paihui, be very careful not to hurt yourself. This action improves the blood circulation in the scalp, which reduces hair fall.”

When you think of a massage, you probably think of soothing music, a gentle brush of hands softly kneading the stress from your shoulders, maybe even of a loved one offering to rub your back after a long day at work. While some massages can be soothing, and rely on gentle touches to work out a client’s stress or anxiety, there are other massages that have a little more grit to them. For example, the Deep Tissue massage, which is very similar in style to the Swedish massage, utilizes some of the same techniques as its much gentler cousin; Deep Tissue massages, however, are designed to focus on the deeper layers of muscle tissues and fascia, the protective layer that surrounds muscles and joints. Working out these harder to reach muscles will require more pressure, making the Deep Tissue massage slightly uncomfortable, gritty and highly effective.


Athletes tend to know their bodies fairly well, so information presented to the therapist seems to be better. Compared to the general client, the athlete is also in good shape and is concerned about getting back to the field of play as soon as possible. Some athletes have an obsessive compulsive behavior about their sport. This generally makes them very compliant with the therapists’ recommendations. 

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