Let me guess-you think deep tissue massage has to be painful to be effective, right? There are a lot of misconceptions about deep tissue massage-namely that it's all sharp elbows and tons of pressure. While at times more pressure may be applied, true deep tissue massage is about addressing muscles below the superficial ones, not about pounds per square inch. What truly makes a massage technique "deep tissue" is the intention and quality of touch applied. Firm pressure can be applied without accessing anything deeper than the muscles just below the skin's surface, yet gentle touch that does not feel invasive can impact muscles located beneath several layers.
Based on the Swedish Massage, deep tissue massage incorporates long gliding strokes but often blends trigger point therapy and friction to target muscle fibers that have formed adhesions ("knots") and are in need of focused attention. As these areas are often tender to touch, it's important to prepare the more superficial layers first so that the deeper, problematic areas are more ready and willing to relax and lengthen. Without allowing the superficial layers to respond to the increased blood flow and gentle stimulus, the deeper layers will naturally resist compression and friction, which may result in pain long after the massage has ended.
While there can be mild discomfort while focusing in on areas with adhesions, deep tissue massage should never be painful. My goal during each massage therapy session is to help restore blood flow to constricted areas and encourage muscles to lengthen and relax through a mixture of gliding strokes, friction, gentle stretching and applied heat. Regularly scheduled deep tissue massage sessions can improve the natural function of muscles which have become less responsive due to repeated use or structural challenges.