Deep Tissue Massage
In order to understand the many benefits of deep tissue massage, one must first have an understanding of what is meant by this type of alternative therapy. It is important to understand that “deep tissue massage”, also often referred to as neuromuscular therapy is not a “hard” massage per say, which is simply applying more pressure. This type of therapy is more about understanding all the different layers of tissue in the body, and working with and through those layers to relax, lengthen, and release holding patterns in the body.
Deep tissue massage is also about working with the myofascial system and trigger points. The myofascial system is made up of a web of connective tissue that both wraps around the muscles and compartmentalizes the body. Muscles are made up of many layers of tissue. The place where muscle contraction occurs in the muscle fiber is called a sarcomere. These are microscopic units and it takes millions of them to contract for even the smallest movement.
A trigger point occurs when these sarcomeres are over stimulated and are unable to release their contracted state. The result is an interruption of blood flow to the immediate area, which in turn causes oxygen starvation and an accumulation of metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide and lactic acid). This trigger point then sends out pain signals to the brain, which causes one to rest the muscle and avoid using it. This in turn causes the muscle to shorten and tighten up. Symptoms manifested by myofascial trigger points can include muscle weakness, stiffness, edema (swelling), postural distortions, dizziness, and referred pain, meaning signals are getting confused in the body. Trigger points can also compress nearby nerves causing burning, tingling, and numbness in the areas served by the nerve. If left untreated, this often results in increased stress and anxiety for the individual, and more often than not causes lost time from work and other activities.
When you come in for deep tissue massage or neuromuscular therapy, the therapist works through those layers of muscle tissue to seek out the trigger points, and works through the layers of fascia to find those “knots” and holding patterns in the myofascial system. By working systematically through the muscle layers the trigger points and myofascial holding patterns are released. This allows fresh oxygenated blood to flow back into the tissues that have been ischemic or oxygen deprived, providing much needed nutrients to the area.
Deep tissue massage has a lot to offer for the individual suffering with back pain, neck pain, leg pain, and or arm pain and problems associated with muscle strain and overuse. It also helps one to decrease symptoms of anxiety and stress through pain reduction and relaxation.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of this type of alternative therapy and what it is all about. It is also important to remember that massage like most other aspects of holistic therapy is very individualistic. Everyone has different pressure needs when they come in. Some people feel they have to have a lot of pressure in order to get a really good massage and for them that is a good thing. Others come in and have massive knots but can’t tolerate much pressure at all either because they have never been worked on before or have not been worked on in a long time, or it is just simply too painful. Often people have the misconception that it should be a painful and hard massage, but if you are on a massage table just trying to endure the therapy for an hour, chances are your muscles are only tensing up more. You risk leaving with muscles that are more tense than when you came in, and you also risk the possibility of tissue damage. I have found that most trigger points can be successfully eliminated without excruciating pain. It may take a little more time and effort, but it usually can be done. When the muscles can get to a more relaxed state, it makes it much easier to get the “knots” out, and nothing so greatly effects a person’s well being as that healing touch.